Bending the knee: US semiconductor juggernauts ask the government for help

More research dosh and more legal immigrants please!

piles of money

The US Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) has asked the government for “bold federal policies” that would enable it to maintain its grip on the world’s chip supply.

The American chip-makers are complaining that foreign governments are using taxes to pay for semiconductor development and are asking for increased R&D funding and preferential treatment for qualified STEM graduates they need, among other things.

“Global technology leadership has never been more important, with so much at stake for America’s future economic growth and competitiveness,” said Sanjay Mehrotra, CEO of Micron and SIA chair for 2019.

“We call upon our leaders in Washington to enact policies that will keep us at the forefront of the must-win technologies of the future.”

SIA’s recommendations to the state are outlined in a report titled ‘Winning the Future: A Blueprint for Sustained US Leadership in Semiconductor Technology’.

Some of the most outrageous ideas within include a suggestion to more than triple the annual funding for semiconductor-specific research across federal scientific agencies (like NASA and DARPA) from $1.5bn to $5bn, and double federal investment in semiconductor-related fields.

Another suggestion is to implement a national education initiative that would magically double the number of American STEM graduates over the next 10 years.

The report bemoans the fact that American-born students don’t want anything to do with STEM subjects: “International students make up a growing share of science and engineering graduate students at US institutions, outnumbering their American counterparts by a ratio of nearly four to one.”

To solve the skills issue, SIA recommends that the government removes “counterproductive” caps on green cards – only counterproductive when they involve STEM graduates, you see.

And finally, SIA would like the federal law enforcement agencies like the FBI to treat semiconductor intellectual property theft much more seriously.

The document also extols the virtues of free trade, as essential to the well-being of American chip-makers – with semiconductors being the county’s fourth-largest export. It also declares support for the United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement, which was negotiated by the Trump administration to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

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SIA points out that the US companies has dominated the semiconductor market for the past 50 years and are responsible for nearly half of the global market share. It doesn’t want the balance of power to change – even though some of its members keep a near-monopoly on certain products.

“America’s longstanding leadership in semiconductor technology rests on three pillars: US companies’ pioneering research, unparalleled workforce, and unfettered ability to sell leading-edge products to customers around the world,” said John Neuffer, president and CEO of the association.

“Congress and the Administration should enact policies that reinforce these pillars and keep America at the head of the class in semiconductor technology.”

After reading the document, it is clear what kind of policy-maker it is aimed at: China, with its lofty aspirations but lack of measurable progress, is name-checked six times, while South Korea – the country that today, ranks second after the US in the semiconductor market, with 16.2 per cent of the global market share – is not mentioned at all.




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