For CHIPS to succeed Biden must rescue it from his DoC
For CHIPS to succeed and not go the way of SemaTech ( a huge bureaucracy of mediocrities who tried to make up for their individual deficiencies by following democratic norms and spawning Committees that grew like Fungus, quickly became a Tower of Babel w/ conflicting priorities from different Member Co.s ) and then collapsed, because they had negligible contribution in initiating the key innovations in Device technology over the last 3 decades ( HKMG, ALD, FinFET etc. ), far less than even IMEC in Belgium.
Physics does NOT follow Democracy. To succeed, CHIPS needs top leaders ( let’s say a team of 3 to maintain some redundancy ) w/ solid track records who can convince the Money men ( Politicians acting as VC s ) and inspire the Best talent to join and go wild. Otherwise it will be just a massive WASTE of time & taxpayer’s money, and everyone involved starting w/ Biden himself will take a hit.
Based on their track record, NIST is NOT qualified to lay down even the foundation for CHIPS. Yet they want to maintain control over CHIPS through their R&D and Program Office described in their Vision document. This has been clear ever since NIST ( as the DoCs own in house Scientific resource ) got involved w/ CHIPS.
The bread & butter off NIST is Metrology ( incl. developing instrumentation ), Measurements & Characterization needed for Standardization of items be they materials or software. To explore & prototype their new concepts & instruments, NIST does have a small in house Fab. But NIST contribution to Semiconductor Mfr. ( incl. Metrology ) has been marginal.
Metrology is of course a crucial component to success in Fabs but not the top 3 or even 5 priorities. NIST has looked at CHIPS as a Windfall and since early last year had been OVER emphasizing Metrology for CHIPS ( for obvious career reasons ) but IGNORING far more important aspects of the total Fab eco system. This has continued ( in spite of having convened an Industrial Advisory Board ) in their “ NSTC Vision” document published earlier this week.
Moore’s Law has ground to a halt due to conventional C MOS finally running into Physics limits. Further shrinkage of CDs is requiring more complex geometries and materials sets. Yet there is no acknowledgement or Organizational plans in the NIST document to address this most important roadblock or to shoot for some breakthrough new Physics to get away from the complexities, only a pedestrian attention to the obvious.
Seven months have passed since the CHIPS Bill was passed last Aug. A qualified Govt. Agency acting as a Program Manager / Intermediary would have by now already launched a Device Physics & new Materials Program w/ the best in the Academia & Industry and funded a huge program to train at least 30 new fresh PhDs & Post Docs per year at Universities. Instead NIST has taken these 7 mo.s to educate itself in the Basics ( it’s unfamiliarity with the latest trends in the Semiconductor Mfr. eco system and its fixation w/ Metrology is painfully apparent in its first Strategy document of Sep 2022 ). Being Govt. Scientists ( almost Bureaucrats ) in DC, NIST still has no inkling of how once pioneering US Semi Co.s lost the Moore’s Law race and why ? Even the Industrial Advisory Committee that NIST has picked VIOLATES the Core Aims of CHIPS !
The complex Organization structure for CHIPS presented yesterday by an ex Finance (!) person ( claiming to be a Silicon Valley “Tech” insider ! ) puts even the most convoluted Spaghetti code to shame. The multi layered hierarchy w/ complex interactions actually replicates the “large Corp. syndrome” that felled the once world leading US Semiconductor Co.s that were founded, then run first by Nobel laureates in Physics, but their success then attracted the vultures !
The mediocrities in DC and hangers on do not seem to have learned anything about the Secret Sauce of success of TSMC, which is that the Semiconductor Mfr. business is too high tech for non STEM PhDs and to guarantee success in the long term, these Corp.s need to keep the Vultures like Economists, Finance guys, MBAs, Bureaucrats, even mediocre Govt. Scientists / pretenders who are attracted by the smell of Big Bucks ( for CHIPS it is $52 billion ) OUT !
If President Biden wants CHIPS to become an Albatross around his neck at Election time next year, then he should just let the DoC ( his Secretary there has a Finance background which sets the tone on what sort of people have her ears even for a highly Scientific / Technical project like CHIPS ) & NIST ( the DoCs in house Science bureaucracy ) to carry on as usual and lay down a weak Foundation, continue tailoring CHIPS policies to suit their personal career goals.
But if he does n’t, then he had better RESCUE CHIPS from the clutches of his DoC URGENTLY and hand it over to some more qualified Dept. ( like his Office of Sci. & Tech run by a PhD in Semiconductor Physics, even NASA who knows how to run Govt. funded complex Engr. projects, allocate large funds to Contractors, manage them for successful Missions ) to run it. Starting CHIPS fresh under a STEM oriented Dept. would not just make it more effective but actually speed up the whole program.