Notre Dame, Purdue help launch microchip network

University of Notre Dame engineering lab.
University of Notre Dame engineering lab.(photo courtesy: Matt Cashore/Notre Dame)
Published: Aug. 16, 2022 at 4:24 PM EDT
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) - There are growing efforts to reclaim microchip production in the U.S. and the Midwest is vying for its share of the multi-billion-dollar industry.

The University of Notre Dame is part of one effort with the creation of a 12-member network of research universities, including Purdue. The universities have signed a memorandum of understanding to establish the Midwest Regional Network to Address National Needs in Semiconductor and Microelectronics. In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Alan Seabaugh, director of Notre Dame Nanoscience and Technology, said Intel’s plan to invest $20 billion to construct two chip manufacturing plants played a key role in the formation of the network.

“The network is about getting the start to coordinate the universities,” said Seabaugh. “Usually, we compete with each other. But in something this big, it’s important for us not to compete with each other but to collaborate.”

The network will include 12 research universities in Indiana, Michigan and Ohio with the common goal of advancing semiconductor research, innovation and production. Each member university will also be invited to consider the ways its work on semiconductors can help address the particular needs and opportunities of the Midwest as a region.

“Each of the universities has capabilities that are unique, so that we don’t have to duplicate it every university. We can collaborate to do things that are bigger than what we could do individually,” said Seabaugh.

Seabaugh will serve on the network’s steering committee along with representatives from the 11 other universities. They will establish the network’s leadership and management structure, as well as to focus on three objectives. Those objectives include designing the curriculum needed for preparing a skilled workforce, advance research and innovation involving semiconductors, and create opportunities for experiential learning.

“We want to collaborate on thinking about the curriculum to prepare students to work in this space. We want to provide the students that are going to be needed to take these jobs,” Seabaugh.

Seabaugh says the CHIPS and Science Act signed last week by President Biden paves the way for a potential major wave of semiconductor manufacturing in the United States, including Indiana. It specifically calls and provides funding for the establishment of ten semiconductor fabrication facilities. Those plants will require workers with necessary skills.

“These new investments bring unprecedented opportunities for our students and faculty,” said Seabaugh. “It is exciting to see semiconductor manufacturing taking a foothold in the Midwest. Through this new collaboration, our students and researchers will be well-positioned to serve this urgent need.”

The network includes the following founding members: Ohio State University, Case Western Reserve University, Columbus State Community College, Lorain County Community College, Michigan State University, Purdue University, Sinclair Community College, University of Cincinnati, University of Dayton, University of Michigan, University of Notre Dame and Wright State University.

While 12 schools are founding members, Seabaugh expects the initial cohort to grow, keeping up with demand from an eventual growing semiconductor industry.

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