Today, at the DARPA Electronics Resurgence Initiative Summit, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, called for fostering a new kind of collaboration to maximize the CHIPS and Science Act, outlining three ways the federal government can address workforce training and education to continue leading global innovation.
“We're at a place now where we have so much information. We need collaboration,” Sen. Cantwell said. “Overall, the CHIPS and Science Act represents one of the largest investments in research and development and a focus on STEM workforce. That was a key part of the bill. And really one of the things I think we really need to focus on today. That is, the jobs of tomorrow are here today, but we don't have the skilled workforce to do it.”
“We need to maximize innovation and entrepreneurship. We need to educate that workforce. And we need to focus on the applications of tomorrow that will convince our colleagues that the competitiveness of the nation depends on that investment,” she told attendees.
Sen. Cantwell explained three key steps the federal government should take to strengthen collaboration and grow the U.S. semiconductor workforce: “First, DARPA-funded researchers can be encouraged to join the National Semiconductor Technology Center, being established by the Department of Commerce, giving greater access to industry facilities used in commercial R&D fabrication.”
“Second,” she continued. “The CHIPS and Science program could assist DARPA in finding industry partners to ensure that leading-edge microelectronics breakthroughs make it through the infamous valley of death.”
“And three, the executive branch can develop a government-wide workforce strategy to ensure training and educational institutions are adequately funded and focused on STEM and the needs of the defense and commercial microelectronics sector,” Sen. Cantwell added.
Sen. Cantwell continued to speak out about the harm of underfunding science and competitiveness legislation, warning that “we did two competitiveness bills before this legislation and we failed to do one thing after it: appropriate the right amount of money.”
Last year, Sen. Cantwell was a lead architect and spearheaded the passage of the CHIPS and Science Act, one of the largest five-year federal research and development investments in U.S. history. According to the Semiconductor Industry Association, the chip pipeline employs more than 250,000 workers in the United States and supports nearly 1.8 million additional American jobs. By 2030, the sector is expected to add nearly 115,000 new chip and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) jobs – but the United States is predicted to have a shortage of 67,000 workers to fill them.
Senator Cantwell’s Full Remarks: Download Audio
[Thank you for] coming to Seattle for this very important conversation about the Electronics Resurgence Initiative and why the United States needs to keep the competitive edge in such a critical sector of our economy.
I want to thank all of you for participating in today's summit. And to make sure that you understand how much those of us in the United States Congress believe that the future depends on you.
This is an important opportunity for our nation to bring the supply chain back to the United States of America. And to keep our competitive advantage in a sector that now most people in America understand what a supply chain is and how important a semiconductor is to that supply chain.
The organizers chose Seattle, I think, because it's a fitting location for how we need to bring people together. And collaboration, I'm not sure if it's the Scandinavians, the Native Americans, the scientists that base their decisions on working together based on hard facts. But we are a place of both innovation and collaboration.
And I didn't coin this, but I heard a fantastic TED talk about how collaboration is the next phase of innovation. If you have all the science and information in the world, but people won't sit down and talk about it, then you can’t implement the innovation.
And that's where we are. We're at a place now where we have so much information. We need collaboration. And that is why I was determined to show that the United States of America and the people that we elect and send to Congress can function and can pass legislation, like the landmark CHIPS and Science Act that we were able to deliver on.
Seattle is synonymous with technology and innovation. Because we have spurred a world class workforce. We are the first in the country in terms of STEM jobs and STEM employment, and the number one state for commercial research and development and investment.
Now, we didn't get there overnight. And we had a lot of help from a few guys named Bill. Bill Boeing and Bill Gates. The fact that those industries rose up here allowed for an incredible focus of engineering and science that is now paying dividends in ways we never imagined.
Even though we have the Space Needle, I never thought that space commercial tourism would be on the agenda. And that, as I’ve said to many people, I met a guy at the Richmond airport and I asked him what he did. And he said, I'm working on material for a space hotel. This was 10 years ago. I thought he meant more space like from REI, where you get a tent in your backyard. He said no, I mean space up there. And that is what people here in Washington do.
This engine also involves the Pacific Northwest laboratory and organizations like the Allen Institute for [Artificial Intelligence] and great companies like Microsoft and Amazon and others who are doing incredible work in innovation.
This month marks the one-year anniversary of the CHIPS and Science Act. And I can tell you it really was a herculean effort because it's a lot of money. And not only is it a lot of money, we had to explain to people what happened in the last two decades that all of a sudden now we're saying we need to bring the supply chain back to the United States of America.
We tried to emphasize that bringing the supply chain back to the United States of America was imperative because we became over-reliant and COVID in this case probably helped us to accentuate this point that too much vulnerability was not good for the United States.
But we also tried to communicate something else, that it was time to dust off our R&D capabilities because in an information age our universities basically are incentivized to publish. Everybody was reading our publishing and we weren't doing enough to patent and translate our science fast enough.
Our colleagues in the United States Senate got this point. And we were able to pass this landmark legislation that basically is about bringing the supply chain back to the United States of America.
But in the electronic resurgence initiative, one thing was really important, that we also needed to build the leading edge chips and what was necessary for AI as a component of that…meant that we were just too dependent on Asia.
And that is why we invested $52 billion in the semiconductor manufacturing area in the CHIPS and Science Act and why our colleagues ultimately said yes, we need to do this. Now, yes, maybe we had a few secure briefings to get this point across. But in the end, they said yes because they knew the reality is that the United States of America can still innovate faster and that this economy depended on it, our national security and competitiveness depended on it.
And that is why we've seen $230 billion in private sector investment already, in response to the CHIPS and Science Act. And why we need now to get on with building the semiconductor industry and making sure that America does stay competitive.
Overall, the CHIPS and Science Act represents one of the largest investments in research and development and a focus on STEM workforce. That was a key part of the bill. And really one of the things I think we really need to focus on today. That is, the jobs of tomorrow are here today, but we don't have the skilled workforce to do it.
So authorizing one of the largest STEM authorizations in the history of our country, I believe is a key component.
But we did two competitiveness bills before this legislation and we failed to do one thing after it: appropriate the right amount of money.
So I hope that in today's conference that you will also focus upon the fact that Congress needs to stay competitive and continue the resources, besides that $52 billion to the semiconductor grant program, but making sure that we get the scientists for tomorrow.
We need to maximize innovation and entrepreneurship. We need to educate that workforce. And we need to focus on the applications of tomorrow that will convince our colleagues that the competitiveness of the nation depends on that investment.
Here in the State of Washington, we are using that CHIPS and Science innovation in a variety of ways. The University of Washington just received $10 million through an NSF grant to train the next generation of semiconductor workers on advanced chips. And this grant also involves Micron, other industry partners and five additional universities with money from the landmark CHIPS and Science Act increase that investment. And the University of Washington and the Oregon State University will also be the beneficiary of a Regional Innovation Engine Hub, authorized by the CHIPS and Science Act.
But I believe that collaboration will be central to our success, innovation hubs like Seattle are primed to bring together large and small businesses, training and academic institutions from all levels, including our government and defense and civil sectors to foster that collaboration.
But how do we give those who are involved in our national security efforts the vision of what is possible, while still adhering to some of our great security challenges? I think we need to foster a new kind of collaboration.
I think greater collaboration is important in strengthening the US semiconductor defense industrial base and implementing the CHIPS and Science Act. And there are three things that we should consider pursuing.
First, DARPA-funded researchers can be encouraged to join the National Semiconductor Technology Center, being established by the Department of Commerce – giving greater access to industry facilities used in commercial R&D fabrication.
Second, the CHIPS and Science program could assist DARPA in finding industry partners to ensure that leading-edge microelectronics breakthroughs make it through the infamous valley of death.
And three, the executive branch can develop a government-wide workforce strategy to ensure that training and educational institutions are adequately funded and focused on STEM, and the needs of the defense and commercial microelectronics sector.
Now, those seem like pretty simple and basic things. But I have seen our state work in amazing ways when it comes to collaboration. We had a water shortage, like many western states. And in the central part of our state, I saw farmers, tribes, fishermen, and environmentalists come together on what was called the Yakima Basin Water Project.
Literally, these are people who spent years assuming they didn't really even like each other. But science allows them to sit down and collaborate on now what the New York Times has written as one of the most collaborative, holistic water approaches that the United States has ever undertaken and are encouraging other western states to do the same.
Why did that collaboration work? It worked among people that didn't normally work together and people who had a great deal of concern about other people's interests.
But that's what's going to have to happen here for the good of the United States, for the good of our national security. We're going to have to figure out how to collaborate in new ways and break down the old barriers that are going to allow the United States a resurgence in our leadership in semiconductor technology for tomorrow.
I know that we are capable of that, that our public safety, national security, economic growth, and prosperity are all things that we can agree on. And that our future is really an opportunity for all Americans to embrace and help us with this.
And just like the United States Senate, where we came together, I am confident that all of you, working collaboratively, will deliver for the United States of America.
Thank you for being in Seattle and enjoy the emergence of this really important area of semiconductors and collaboration. Thank you all very much.