CHIPS for America and Scientific Innovation

5/6   in the series ChE in Context

The bipartisan Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors (CHIPS) and Science Act of 2022 is one of the most significant pieces of legislation passed for research and development (R&D) in the U.S. It provides a once-in-a-generation opportunity to invest in a critical technology for the future: semiconductors and microelectronics.

Semiconductors are essential to innovation and our quality of life; they power artificial intelligence (AI), electric vehicles, medical devices, and consumer products of all shapes and sizes. Chemical engineers have a unique role in shaping the future of semiconductors and other emerging technologies across many disciplines.


The CHIPS Act provides $50 billion to the U.S. Dept. of Commerce (DOC) for a suite of programs to strengthen and revitalize the U.S. position in semiconductor R&D and manufacturing. CHIPS for America encompasses two offices responsible for implementing the law. The CHIPS Program Office is dedicating $39 billion to incentives for investment in facilities and equipment in the U.S., and the CHIPS R&D Office is investing $11 billion to build a robust domestic R&D ecosystem. Targeted investments across both programs are implementing a cohesive strategy to provide the resources and tools to meet urgent needs for domestic capacity, including workforce, and to make longer-term investments in new technologies to sustain the continuous cycle of innovation that drives the success of the semiconductor industry.

Members of industry have signaled their enthusiasm for the CHIPS program and the opportunities it provides to communities across the country. Since the CHIPS Act was signed into law, U.S. private companies have announced $200 billion in semiconductor manufacturing investments and more than 600 companies have submitted statements of interest for CHIPS incentives funding. This intense activity and high level of investment are necessary because of the enormous complexity of semiconductor manufacturing, which requires thousands of individual processing steps, many of which require nearly atomistic levels of control over large areas, as well as highly sophisticated design tools and advanced assembly and test equipment. To meet the goals of the CHIPS Act, innovators need a systems-level R&D ecosystem with the flexibility to explore advances in complex heterogeneous systems, as well as the confidence that new designs and manufacturing technologies will be successful. That is why the CHIPS R&D programs are critical to regaining U.S. leadership in the semiconductor industry.

The CHIPS R&D program

The CHIPS R&D program comprises four integrated programs that work together to create a robust domestic ecosystem for innovation:

  • the CHIPS National Semiconductor Technology Center (NSTC) Program, a private-public consortium where industry, academia, national laboratories, and government agencies work together to meet the most important challenges and opportunities for innovation
  • the CHIPS National Advanced Packaging Manufacturing Program (NAPMP), to ensure that semiconductors made in America also undergo advanced packaging in America
  • the CHIPS Manufacturing USA Program, to develop the first-of-its-kind institute focused on digital twin technologies for the semiconductor sector
  • the CHIPS Metrology Program, created to conduct measurement science that is critical to every stage of semiconductor manufacturing, will enable innovation across the semiconductor ecosystem and benefit all of the CHIPS R&D programs.

Over the past year, significant progress has been made to advance these historic R&D programs. To date, the DOC has announced that it expects to invest over $5 billion of CHIPS funds into the NSTC over the decade, approximately $3 billion for the NAPMP, at least $200 million in a CHIPS Manufacturing USA Institute, and over $100 million for the CHIPS Metrology program.

The impact

Even with this unprecedented level of investment of public dollars for R&D and technology, the most significant impact of the CHIPS Act has been the deep, intense engagement of people across the entire semiconductor stakeholder community — from industry, universities, and state and local governments. Regional partnerships are growing in number and strength to energize local economies, industry is making investments in domestic facilities, and new workforce-centered programs are being created.

Tackling future technological challenges

For the future, it is important to recognize that semi­conductor technology is not the only critical technology that is remarkably complex, foundational to a broad range of applications, and vital to the nation’s economic and national security. Many of these areas — including AI, biotechnology, and energy production — require deep expertise in specific domains like chemistry, engineering, materials, and physics, as well as the ability to synthesize these domains into systems-level technology. This combination is at the core of chemical engineering as a practice and discipline. Chemical engineers have the opportunity to meet the future challenges of these increasingly complex technologies. The CHIPS Act is an unprecedented investment into just one of these critical technology areas and could serve as a template for new areas to come.

This article is also featured in the ChE in Context column of the April 2024 issue of CEP. Members have access online to complete issues, including a vast, searchable archive of back-issues found at