Amidst rising demands in the US semiconductor market and pressures building on Congress to fund the $52bn CHIPS Act, plans have been announced for the Midwest’s first chip design centre.

Purdue University’s College of Engineering on Tuesday (28th June) unveiled a new partnership with global fabless chipmaker MediaTek to develop the site to help support strains being felt in the semiconductor space right now.

To be located on Purdue’s campus, the design centre will provide students to interact with chip design talent and support the semiconductor market at a critical time. In addition to the design site, the duo has also agreed to partner on new chip design engineering programmes, research on artificial intelligence and communications chip design.

As gasworld reported last month (May 2022), the CHIPS Act proposes to provide $52bn in funding to boost the US semiconductor market, with up to $5bn of that capital set to support the all-important supply chain, with a final investment decision set to be announced this summer.

This comes as 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.

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

Doing all it can to support market pressures, Purdue University has also launched a set of degrees and credentials in semiconductors and microelectronics to support workforce and announced a partnership with Ivy Tech Community College to focus on microelectronics.

Mitch Daniels, President of Purdue University, said, “Attracting a world-class chip design firm to Indiana has been a long-time goal for our team. The MediaTek investment confirms Indiana’s emergence as a centre of semiconductor technology and Purdue’s Discovery Park District as the state’s premier new economic engine.”

The idea for a new centre for MediaTek was born in 2021, when Govenor Holcomb travelled to Silicon Valley to pitch chip CEOs about Indiana’s commitment to the semiconductor industry.

Kou-Hung Lawrence Loh, Corporate Senior Vice-President of MediaTek Inc and President of MediaTek USA, said, “We believe strongly that being in Indiana means we’ll have access to some of the best engineering talent in the world.”

“Not just at Purdue, but West Lafayette is only four hours away from nearly a dozen of the top engineering schools in the country. In the post-pandemic world, top candidates tell us they want to be closer to home, near family, and they want to have a real house and great public schools. Indiana offers all that and more.”

MediaTek has been partnering with US universities on advanced research for more than a decade, but the latest project is unique in that a new centre will be sited directly on campus and is an opportunity for students to both complete their engineering education and contribute directly to product design and solutions for a global team.

Govenor Holcomb commented, “As a global company, MediaTek has literally a world of options at its fingertips, and we couldn’t be more thrilled that they’ve chosen Indiana to grow and build the foundation and future of the semiconductor industry alongside the brightest minds in the world.”

“MediaTek chose a thriving, top-rated university with innovation expertise and a strong talent pipeline that will power these quality careers for decades to come.”

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.

According to gasworld Business Intelligence, Ukraine was a key supplier for US companies and some sources suggest up to 95% of neon supply to US chip producers comes from Ukraine.