As President Biden signed the CHIPS and Science Act this summer, the U.S. semiconductor industry has been encouraged to grow at a rapid speed. The act not only provided the industry with $52 billion for further development but also encouraged many companies to take advantage of this emerging market.
Rochester was one of the several communities that reacted to the Chips Act by taking advantage of this new emerging industry in the U.S.
“Ideally, you would need governmental intervention to jump-start something like the semiconductor industry. But I think the Chips Act is just a natural response to what we witnessed in the COVID era,” said Professor Lawrence Rothenberg at the University of Rochester.
The Center for Emerging & Innovative Sciences (CEIS) at the University of Rochester stands as the main force behind the effort of bringing the emerging semiconductor industry to Rochester.
“Rochester has all the ingredients to be a center of semiconductor technology. When I say semiconductor technology, I mean both chip fabrication and packaging[…] It may take several years but we are focusing on the packaging part more than on the chip fabrication part,” says Paul Ballentine, the Executive Director, Business Development for the University of Rochester’s Center for Emerging & Innovative Sciences (CEIS).
In general, chip fabrication refers to the process of manufacturing semiconductor devices that are usually made in a silicon wafer at small dimensions. Chip packaging, on the other hand, refers to the process of adding a protective layer to the chip. The package not only keeps the chip cool in temperature but also provides a connection between the chip and the circuit board.
“There’s no region in the country that has clear leadership in packaging […] So here’s an opportunity for Rochester to develop this, be aggressive about it, and leverage all the capabilities we have of the University’s infrastructure and the testing packaging facility. If we work together, we have a real chance of being a leader,” says Ballentine.
Among all the benefits of introducing the semiconductor packaging industry to the Rochester region, an increase in local employment is expected to be a major advantage. Ballentine says: “We have an opportunity to get good high-paying high-tech jobs locally and stop what people refer to here as ‘brain drain,’ where a very high percentage of the engineering graduates in Rochester move away. That’s a problem for the region.”
Ballentine also says that this will be an opportunity for Rochester students to expand on entrepreneurial capabilities and college programs as well. In collaboration with the current studies that are going on at the University, students will be able to find more possibilities for entrepreneurship and business innovation., “The University of Rochester can and should play a prominent role. Part of the ecosystem is education and workforce training, and part of the ecosystem is university research.”