Capital Region vying for billions in federal chip funding

Larry Rulison March 22, 2021  Updated: March 22, 2021 6:45 p.m.

ALBANY — Fab 8.2 may be only just the beginning.

A push by President Joe Biden to get Congress to approve a $37 billion federal  subsidy program aimed at bolstering the domestic computer chip manufacturing sector against Asian competition could help GlobalFoundries pay to build a second chip factory at the company’s Fab 8 campus in Malta.

But it could also help the state’s Albany Nanotech complex on the SUNY Polytechnic Institute campus land a new federal computer chip research lab called the National Semiconductor Technology Center that would be the envy of the nation.

The end result could mean billions of dollars in federal, state and corporate semiconductor industry investment pouring into the Capital Region and other parts of upstate over the next decade.

“It’s a perfect fit,” said Doug Grose, president of NY CREATES, the non-profit entity that oversees the state-supported chip industry research operations at SUNY Poly and affiliated sites across upstate.

Grose told the Times Union that the NY CREATES advisory board, whose members come from a variety of industry and academic backgrounds, will meet next Monday, March 29, to discuss the best way to try and land the National Semiconductor Technology Center.

“We could start at time zero,” Grose said, noting that Albany Nanotech is already considered the most advanced computer chip research center in the country with available chip production lines that could be expanded as needed.

“It would be phased in over time,” Grose said.

Biden’s $37 billion computer chip manufacturing initiative was actually started under the Trump administration in response to China’s growing influence in the computer chip industry at the expense of the United States. The idea of China controlling key aspects of the semiconductor industry’s supply chain and manufacturing output has worried the Defense Department for years as the U.S. chip industry has consolidated and outsourced more and more of its production overseas.

The coronavirus pandemic, which has disrupted the global supply chain for chips, triggering a ripple effect on the auto industry and others, has only made the issue more pressing.

GlobalFoundries, which employs 3,000 people at its Fab 8 chip factory in Malta, would be a likely beneficiary of the $37 billion fund that Biden is pitching Congress.

GlobalFoundries CEO Tom Caulfield recently told Reuters that GlobalFoundries would seriously consider building a second chip factory in Malta if Congress approves the program, which was originally spelled out — but not financed — in the Defense Department budget bill passed by Congress just before Trump left office in January.

The program was originally proposed by U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., now the Senate Majority Leader, under a bill called the CHIPS Act. That measure was eventually rolled into the Defense Department spending bill, although technically Congress must still approve the spending, which would provide subsidies to companies like GlobalFoundries to build new U.S. production facilities and launch the federal chip research lab.

Second chip fab in Malta only a matter of ‘when,’ Caulfield says

“It’s not a question of  if,” Caulfield told Reuters for a story earlier this month. “It’s just a question of when. And a key element of going forward will be the funding of the CHIPS Act.”

Computer chip factories today cost between $10 billion and $15 billion. GlobalFoundries spent nearly $1 million during the last three months of 2020 lobbying Congress and the Trump administration on the CHIPS Act and other initiatives.

Grose said the National Semiconductor Technology Center would attract billions in federal, state and industry investment, which would make it far larger than any previous research labs created at the SUNY Poly campus. It would also likely involve a computer chip packaging center that NY CREATES operates in Rochester if New York was awarded the center.

Just last week, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo met with representatives from the Semiconductor Industry Association, whose membership includes GlobalFoundries and other chip companies, to update them on Biden’s plans.

“I believe we need to make strong investments in domestic manufacturing, research and workforce, and help strengthen America’s global leadership in semiconductor manufacturing and innovation,” Raimondo said. “This is the beginning of what I believe will be an ongoing dialog between the Department of Commerce and industry leaders as we find innovative ways to invest in domestic manufacturing.”

The hope that GlobalFoundries will land some of the CHIPS Act funding has already bolstered optimism in Saratoga County, where Fab 8 is located, says Shelby Schneider, president of the Saratoga County Prosperity Partnership, an economic development group.

“That’s really exciting.” Schneider said.

ams Invests in New Imaging Center of Excellence in Rochester, NY to Boost Sensor-enabled Consumer Imaging Expertise

March 02, 2021 11:00 AM Eastern Standard Time

PREMSTAETTEN, Austria–(BUSINESS WIRE)–ams (SIX: AMS), a leading worldwide supplier of high-performance sensor solutions, is establishing an imaging center of excellence producing state-of-the-art consumer image sensors and product validation to support key US customers from the Riverwood Tech Campus in Rochester, New York, USA. The new research and development and design center will continue the tradition of world-class consumer imaging innovation into the sensor-enabled era.

A concentration of photonics expertise in research and development in the Rochester area means that there is world-class talent base to create a state-of-the-art center of excellence for optical imaging. ams is keen to expand its engineering capacity, drawing upon the company’s excellent global position in consumer imaging and sensing in the smartphone market and the regional heritage and ecosystem in the fields of imaging and photonics.

“Rochester is the perfect choice for ams to expand its research and development in the transformative fields of consumer imaging and photonics, to create design innovations that make an impact on our world. We look forward to collaborating with institutions such as the NYS American Institute for Manufacturing for Integrated Photonics, and renowned local universities and institutes,” said David Sackett, Senior Director Research and Development, Consumer Image Sensors at ams and the site manager.

The Rochester location is in the renovated Riverwood Tech Campus near the Genesee River which is modern, attractive, and ideal for creativity and collaboration with customers and partners.

Driving innovation in new optical technologies through significant R&D investments

ams’ leading position in optical sensing is built on its broad portfolio for 3D sensing including VCSEL (Vertical Cavity Surface-Emitting Laser) illumination, high quality display management including behind-OLED (BOLED) sensing, micro-scale proximity sensing, spectral and bio-sensing, and other optical applications. Continuous significant R&D investments allow ams to drive innovation in new optical and optical/sensor module technologies.

Going forward ams expects sophisticated camera enhancing technologies to offer attractive adoption opportunities as camera-related features will drive key value propositions for smartphone users. This includes areas such as automatic white balancing (AWB), laser-detect autofocus (LDAF) / 1D ToF, wide-range flicker detection and AR-oriented camera support functions. As an example, ams’ innovative AWB solution uses accurate spectral sensing analysis to open a new way of boosting picture quality and natural color expression and is seeing additional market traction.


Amy Flécher
Vice President Marketing Communications