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Purdue Forges International Partnerships in Semiconductor Tech

Purdue is partnering with tech companies and researchers in Europe, Japan and India to share knowledge and prepare students for careers in advanced semiconductor technology and microelectronics.

An arch at an entrance to the Purdue University campus that says "Purdue University."
Purdue University is partnering with tech companies and institutions across the U.S., Europe, India and Japan to train students for work in advanced semiconductor manufacturing and to conduct joint research in microelectronics.

According to a news release this week, Purdue President Mung Chiang signed an international partnership agreement Sunday at the G7 Conference in Hiroshima to establish a partnership with Japan-based tech company Tokyo Electron and Micron, based in Idaho, and create the “UPWARDS Network,” geared toward expanding joint workforce training and advanced semiconductor research and development efforts between the two countries. The agreement will also bring together researchers and higher ed institutions in Japan and the U.S., such as the University of Chicago, for joint research and development. The partnership comes shortly after Purdue announced other international agreements to partner with the India Semiconductor Mission, as well as with Belgium-based semiconductor engineering company imec, with similar goals in mind. The announcements said the partnerships will expand academic programs for specialized training in chip design and fabrication, advanced packaging and working with semiconductor materials.

Mark Lundstrom, a professor of electrical and computer engineering and chief semiconductor officer at Purdue, told Government Technology that these international partnerships represent major milestones in Purdue’s ongoing efforts to make the university a global focal point for semiconductor research and skills training, with an ultimate aim of advancing the field and building a global microelectronics workforce for domestic production. He said the university’s newly established Semiconductor Task Force will help guide new programming focused on semiconductor technology and helping the U.S. regain preeminence in semiconductor technology and manufacturing — a key goal of the CHIPS Act, signed last year by President Joe Biden to increase domestic microchip production, and of Purdue's semiconductor degrees program.

Lundstrom said research and development partnerships like these will be mutually beneficial for the countries and companies involved, adding that Japan and India, for instance, have similar goals to those of the CHIPS Act and would both benefit from advancing joint research in the field. He said ramping up international collaboration in microelectronics research and development will play a key role in efforts to produce the advanced semiconductors and microchips needed for emerging technologies, such as autonomous vehicles, in the years to come.

“We've got to find new ways to advance the performance of electronic systems. That's going to be an exciting challenge. Universities need to be part of that as well, so we're looking forward to the various CHIPS Act research and development efforts that roll out,” he said.

“There are both workforce and research needs that [these partnerships] address. For example, Japan has its own ambitious research, similar to what's beginning to roll out in the CHIPS Act. Major companies in the U.S. also have a major presence in Japan, and they're interested in leveraging the research strengths of the universities in Japan and the U.S. That's part of the value proposition. This way, a company — instead of independently supporting faculty and doing research — can do it in a more thoughtful, coordinated way that's addressing common challenges,” he said. “They have workforce needs in both countries, so this is an opportunity for student exchanges and to get students experience in both countries. … These are the kinds of partnerships that we see developing with a few of the U.S.'s critical international partners in the semiconductor space.”

In addition to these recent workforce development and research partnerships, Lundstrom said the university has added to its semiconductor-related course catalog. For instance, the university launched a summer learning program last week to give students more hands-on experience working with semiconductors. He said student interest in such programs has been growing in recent months.

“We launched our summer program, which is a hands-on program for students to try to give them some experience in either chip design or chip fabrication and get them interested in thinking about careers in semiconductors and ready to do internships with companies,” he said. “A key question is, are we going to be able to get students excited about pursuing careers [related to] semiconductors? The initial readings that we're getting from our programs is there's an awful lot of student interest. For example, for this summer program, we're offering it for the first time, and we had hoped to get 50 students, but we had 500 students register.”

Editor's note: A previous version of this story misstated where Micron is based. It is headquartered in Idaho.
Brandon Paykamian is a staff writer for Government Technology. He has a bachelor's degree in journalism from East Tennessee State University and years of experience as a multimedia reporter, mainly focusing on public education and higher ed.