$285 million NOFO will support semiconductor research using ‘digital twins’

May 7, 2024

The U.S. Department of Commerce announced today a $285 million Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) designed to create an institute that uses digital twins – virtual representations mirroring the structure, context and behavior of physical objects – to streamline semiconductor research and manufacturing.

Part of the CHIPS for America Program, the funds aim to establish and run a CHIPS Manufacturing USA institute, which will join an established network of 17 Manufacturing USA institutes, all designed to use public-private partnerships to meld innovation, education and collaboration to shape the future of manufacturing.

“This new Manufacturing USA institute will not only help to make America a leader in developing this new technology for the semiconductor industry, it will also help train the next generation of American workers and researchers to use digital twins for future advances in R&D and production of chips,” Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said.

The institute will be overseen by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and is the first launched since BioMADE was unveiled in 2020. BioMAID is an American company dedicated to bioindustrial innovations.

“Digital twin technology will help transform the semiconductor industry,” NIST Director Laurie E. Locascio said. “This is a prime example of how CHIPS for America is bringing research institutions and industry partners together in public private partnership to enable rapid adoption of innovations that will enhance domestic competitiveness for decades to come.”

Semiconductor manufacturing processes being targeted for study include not only core lithography but also advanced packaging, assembly and testing.

Although the United States maintains its status as a dominant force in semiconductor design and research and development globally, its position in manufacturing has lagged, NIST points out, representing only roughly 10 percent of worldwide commercial production. Presently, none of the cutting-edge logic and memory chips essential for devices like PCs, smartphones, and supercomputers are produced at a commercial scale within the United States.

“CHIPS R&D is about making sure American manufacturers can continue to succeed and thrive,” said Arati Prabhakar, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy director. “Digital twin technology can accelerate the costly and time-consuming work to develop the next generation of robust manufacturing for this extraordinarily complicated product.”

In contrast to traditional research models, digital twins can operate in cloud-based environments, allowing collaboration on design and process development among engineers and researchers nationwide. This approach aids innovation through technologies like artificial intelligence, which can expedite chip development and manufacturing while enhancing capacity planning, production optimization, facility upgrades and real-time process adjustments.

Outside of core research goals, funds will also be used for operational management of the institute, basic and applied research on semiconductor digital twin development, establishment of shared physical and digital facilities, demonstration projects and workforce training.

A webinar will provide a briefing on details of the funding opportunity May 8 at 4 p.m. (Eastern). Webinar participants must register in advance.

Photo by Vishnu Mohanan on Unsplash

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