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The US needs to invest an additional $1.5bn per year in semiconductor and nanoelectronics research, or risk falling behind in the global IT industry, according to IBM's Dr John Kelly.

The Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) has called for the creation of a Nanoelectronics Research Institute to coordinate a massive nanotech research effort before the industry reaches the physical limits of CMOS (complementary metal-oxide semiconductor) technology.

SIA says this limit will be reached in the next 15 years and warns that if action is not taken now, the consequences will be ugly: "The price for not starting now on a massive, coordinated research and development effort in nanoelectronics could be nothing less than a loss, in just two decades, of U.S. economic and defence leadership," according to Kelly, senior VP of the IBM Technology Group.

He argues that without the technological edge, the US cannot expect to compete in the global market where labour is so cheap. "Constant innovation is the key to being competitive while paying high wages to our workforce", he says.

SIA proposes a collaborative research group, the Nanoelectronics Research Institute (NRI) which would be a joint effort of the semiconductor industry, academia, and government. The goal will be to generate new ideas and discoveries in nanoelectronics.

Specifically, the SIA says, the NRI will need to demonstrate "the feasibility of creating a new switch with associated interconnects and memory using novel materials and manufacturing techniques by the year 2020".

The European Commission recently published a paper calling for greater investment in the area. It said the nanotech market will be worth trillions within the next decade, and called on Europe to take the lead in the industry. reg;

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