SEMI, the industry association serving the global electronics design and manufacturing supply chain, has publicly applauded progress in the US Senate on a robust package of federal incentives for the semiconductor supply chain.

The association has also urged the Act’s timely passage in Congress.

The bill includes $52bn in funding for new semiconductor programmes, including $39bn for a grant programme available to semiconductor manufacturers as well as equipment and materials suppliers.

Additionally, a 25% tax credit is included for facilities that produce semiconductors or semiconductor manufacturing equipment.

It comes amidst a turbulent time in the US semiconductor sector, with unprecedented demands balanced against strained supply chains.

Demand for semiconductors in the US is as much as 17% higher in 2021 than it was in 2019, according to the US Department of Commerce, and the majority of on-stream semiconductor manufacturing facilities are operating at or above 90% utilisation – meaning there is limited additional supply to bring online without building facilities.

These strains, however, were already withstanding before the Russia and Ukraine crisis that has continued to affect the world in many different ways. With a significant percentage of the world’s semiconductor-grade neon production derived from Ukraine and Eastern Europe as a whole, concerns for the stability of rare gases supply as the Russian invasion of Ukraine are ongoing.

Lack of support for the specialty gas supply chain is quickly becoming the biggest concern in North America right now, as gasworld explored in recent weeks in an exclusive interview with Massachusetts-based Electronic Fluorocarbons.

“You’re not only looking at the geopolitics crises that are happening and the loss of access to certain materials, but you’re seeing the large end-users planning to double or triple their output – and that impact can be felt in very real ways throughout our industry and by the American consumer,” Caroline Metcalf-Vera, Government Affairs at Electronic Fluorocarbons, told gasworld.

“The education that we’re trying build around this industry wide, is that when you invest billions of dollars at the fab level, at the end user level, and you don’t support the supply chain, the supply chain isn’t going to be able to meet the fabs where they’re at during this rapid pace of growth.”

Read more: Exclusive – US semi supply chain at risk, major investment and support required

This issue has been a big focus for Metcalf-Vera, having spent considerable time on Capitol Hill to discuss the importance of the CHIPS Act with members like Senator John Cornyn, Congresswoman Doris Matsui, and Chairman Jim McGovern.

The Bill entered the conference period as part of The United States Innovation and Competition Act (USICA) with 107 conferees and hopes to see a final version early this summer. Approved earlier this year, the Act proposes to provide $52bn in funding to boost the US semiconductor market, with up to $5bn of that set to support the supply chain.

And as the foremost body representing the semiconductor sector, SEMI has now come out in public support of the Act, and with a call to action to swiftly push it through Congress.

Ajit Manocha, SEMI President and CEO, urged, “To strengthen the semiconductor supply chain in the US and keep pace with other regions offering incentives, it is crucial for Congress to pass CHIPS funding and the investment tax credit.”

“With semiconductor manufacturing facilities heavily reliant on a complex supply chain of equipment and materials providers, it is particularly important that these vital fab suppliers are eligible for incentives to ensure the resiliency, competitiveness and growth of the complete US semiconductor ecosystem.”

“SEMI also supports the addition of an advanced semiconductor research tax credit, extending the investment tax credit to materials suppliers, and other proposed reforms.”

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Helium impact

Though the largest end-uses of helium include liquid helium for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) manufacturing and service and gaseous helium for lifting applications (balloons, airships), helium demand for semiconductor production is expected to grow ~6% per year over the next three years from 2022 to 2024.

That’s according to analysis performed by TECHCET CA LLC, cited by Intelligas Consulting’s Maura D. Garvey in her exclusive 2022 worldwide helium market report for gasworld US Edition’s Helium-focused August issue (coming soon).

Helium demand for semiconductor continued to grow throughout the pandemic, and is heating up this year – and strong growth is expected over the next several years, with plans for new fabs in the US and Europe. This has been emboldened through the aforementioned CHIPS Acts, and Garvey’s analysis notes that ‘We just need to have the helium supply to support this growth’.

That’s not the only question mark the Acts provide. According to Lita Shon-Roy, CEO of TECHCET CA LLC, “Once fully approved by Congress, the CHIPS Act will buoy up the market, allowing for further growth in the midst of recession worries. However, the question remains, ‘Will there be set asides in the CHIPS Act for materials production and R&D?’ This will be highly dependent on US policymakers and their interpretation of what is and is not needed to strengthen US’ position in semiconductor technology and manufacturing.”