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Gov. Abbott launches task force to attract federal semiconductor development to Texas

Texas already has a robust cluster of semiconductor manufacturers. Semiconductor chips are the fourth-most traded product in the world.

AUSTIN, Texas — Gov. Greg Abbott started a new push to bring more semiconductor research and development to Texas.

Gov. Abbott's new National Semiconductor Centers Texas Task Force aims to bring two new federal groups to Texas to continue pushing U.S. development of semiconductor chips. In 1990, the U.S. manufactured 37% of the world's semiconductor chips. In 2020, the U.S. manufactured just 12% of the world's semiconductor chips. 

"Beyond the shortages at the moment, which are significant, there is sustainable demand in this space that we did not have the infrastructure for," Mark Pollard, COO and president of Astute Electronics, said. "We sort of fell asleep on it somewhat amazingly."

The U.S. Department of Commerce is launching two new institutes to improve production of semiconductor chips domestically: National Semiconductor Technology Center and the National Advanced Packaging Manufacturing Program. Federal and state leaders say the two "will become a hub for industry, academia and the broader research community, and government to come together to serve as a nexus for conducting advanced semiconductor research and prototyping that strengthens the domestic semiconductor ecosystem."

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"It's a long-term play," Pollard said. "This is a generational play in terms of investing in education and training … There's going to be massive demand for years and years to come. It's not going away."

"The semiconductor industry here is really driving innovation and performance and electronics around the world," Ed Latson, executive director of Austin Regional Manufacturers Association, said. "The investment that we're seeing into these industries – it is really important to continue that. It's important for us as a region economically and seeing the institutes land here are only going to increase our momentum and performance in this sector."

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Semiconductor chips can be found in most modern technology, from your cellphone to an F-35. Because they are so widely traded and used, federal and state leaders hope to prioritize the product.

"There's momentum. There's all these different players in the ecosystem right now," Pollard said. "It's not just the Samsungs; it's not just the chip makers and those that are creating the wafers here locally. It's the Applied Materials and the Tokyo Electrons who make the critical equipment that's required to make wafers in this process. You've got Tesla moving here. You've got Oracle moving here and you're back into the industrial space. Facebook and Google, guess what? They consume more chips than anything for CPUs for their servers to make those, you know, their platforms run. Amazon, also the largest consumer in the world of CPUs, you know, to make their backend work as well."

In part, the new groups would be funded by the CHIPS for America Act. Earlier this year, the Senate passed the bill as part of a larger defense spending bill. Since June, the potential funding has been waiting for the U.S. House of Representatives to vote on it.

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