Newly formed MASH consortium recently met to identify industry-academia-government partnerships that will position the U.S. for technology and workforce leadership in semiconductors and microelectronics
When President Joe Biden signed the CHIPS (Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors) and Science Act on Aug. 9, 2022, to accelerate U.S. manufacturing of semiconductors, Penn State took action. The University created the Mid-Atlantic Semiconductor Hub (MASH) with other academic partners, industry and state governments to lead and leverage the cumulative expertise in this area.
On May 22-23, the newly formed MASH consortium met at University Park to focus on identifying industry-academia-government partnerships that will position the U.S. for technology and workforce leadership in semiconductors and microelectronics.
The two-day event included representatives from partnering universities, government agencies, community colleges and industries in the Mid-Atlantic region.
Penn State President Neeli Bendapudi said that active engagement between academia and business throughout the Mid-Atlantic region is critical.
“The reason this can be a model for the world, for the country, is that it reflects our collective commitment to interdisciplinary, multi-institutional partnerships,” she said. “I am convinced the world is too complex today for any one discipline, any one individual, any one institution, or even any one sector to try to address these important challenges.”
Andrew Read, interim senior vice president for research at Penn State, provided his perspective on the hub.
“The MASH consortium is uniquely positioned to solve challenges in infrastructure, research, prototyping and packaging, through strong collaboration, workforce development and training," Read said. "We are striving to elevate the positioning of the United States as a leader in this industry."
Much of the event focused on the critical nature of the CHIPS opportunity and national prioritization of this need, as emphasized by the sharing of a quote from Biden at a CHIPS event in Poughkeepsie, New York, last fall: “The world is at an inflection point, and the decisions we make in the next 10 years are going to fundamentally alter the way we look at the world and our place in the world.”
“The MASH consortium is uniquely positioned to solve challenges in infrastructure, research, prototyping, and packaging, through strong collaboration, workforce development, and training. We are striving to elevate the positioning of the United States as a leader in this industry.” Andrew Read, interim senior vice president for research at Penn State
MASH represents a key location for expertise, facilities and workforce
The Mid-Atlantic region of the U.S. has the highest density of laboratories and universities in the world. In addition, with more than 60 million people who call the region home, it offers a workforce pipeline to fill the jobs needed to manufacture semiconductors.
Preexisting facilities, expertise and workforce depth all give the region both agility and the ability to start creating solutions, fast, according to Daniel Lopez, director of the Penn State Materials Research Institute’s Nanofabrication Laboratory and Liang Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.
"By partnering with neighboring universities within the Mid-Atlantic region, we are creating a synergistic consortium that combines expertise in semiconductor and microelectronics with unique resources, skills and strengths in packaging, communications, electronic design and workforce development,” Lopez said.
Solutions will require the strengths of each MASH partner
“Penn State is fantastic in materials; Carnegie Mellon University is strong in computational science,” said David Fried, corporate vice president of Lam Research. “Pairing different tech leadership positions is going to be essential [to the success of MASH]. There is such an inherent value in pulling together different university cultures, collaborative agencies and companies to gain a diversity of perspectives. No one university is going to be able to take the quantum leap forward that this initiative needs — it’s going to come down to collaboration.”
Likewise, it is crucial to involve industry representatives from every portion of the semiconductor supply chain, Fried said, including companies like Lam Research, a leading player in the semiconductor equipment manufacturing sector that specializes in providing innovative solutions for wafer fabrication processes. By engaging with Lam Research and other industry experts, MASH can gain a comprehensive understanding of the challenges and opportunities within the semiconductor landscape. According to Fried, this collaboration ensures that MASH's response is grounded in practicality and responsiveness, aligning with the real-world needs and requirements of the industry. The unique perspectives, expertise and insights brought by industry partners, Fried said, played a pivotal role in shaping effective strategies to develop targeted programs, curricula and research agendas that foster collaboration and drive continued growth.
“There is such a wonderful infrastructure in the region,” said Gerald Lopez, director of operations and business development and Singh Center associate director, University of Pennsylvania.
Collaboration was a big focus of the event, both in formal sessions and purposeful networking breaks that took place throughout the two days. National semiconductor experts ate lunch beside academic researchers, and industry analysts brainstormed with government talent. Fried mentioned the days of Sputnik and the "space race" and how scientists around the nation rushed to collaborate for a common good, and the feeling of unity, determination and a lot of energy fit the zeitgeist of the event perfectly.
Creating opportunities for all talent with workforce development
A project this massive and impactful on the U.S. requires millions of workers. Experts project that 300,000 direct jobs will be created and the supporting supply chain will create another 1.7 million jobs over the next 10 years.
This scale presents both opportunities for high-paying jobs and a tremendous challenge: Where will all this talent come from? According to National Science Board Vice Chair Victor McCrary, the answer comes down to education and access. He said that to create a workforce to solve these challenges, education needs to be accessible to all students.
“We need STEM education in K-12 classes along with community colleges, tech schools and historically black colleges and universities," McCrary said. "We need to put money into public schools and show students the beauty of physics, chemistry and engineering.”
He added that while talent is equal across the country, access is not.
“There are students not exposed to STEM," McCrary said. "We need to inspire the next generation to work in science fields, and we need everybody — women, men, Black, white and Latino — because we are facing intense global competition. We need all hands on deck.”
The power to make a difference
Penn State’s resources and assets — from the state-of-the-art facilities in the Materials Research Institute to the engaging, collaborative panel sessions to those dedicated to research, innovation and translation — were on full display during the event. It was an opportunity to see Penn State as a collaborative part of a Mid-Atlantic powerhouse and an internationally recognized leader in semiconductor research and development and as a national leader in the education and development of the semiconductor workforce.
“This consortium has the power to make a difference,” McCrary said.
By leveraging Penn State’s specific strengths along with its proven prowess in collaboration, MASH is ready to meet the CHIPS and Science Act’s opportunities when it is released later this year.
Learn more about MASH
From upcoming workshops to a listing of partners to subscribing to MASH updates, learn more by visiting the MASH: Mid-Atlantic Semiconductor Hub website.
About Penn State
Penn State is a multi-campus, land-grant, public research University that educates students from around the world and supports individuals and communities through integrated programs of teaching, research and service. Penn State is an R1 university, a classification given by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Higher Education to the very best research universities in America, reaching a record $1.034 billion in research expenditures during fiscal year 2021-22.
The University’s discovery-oriented, collaborative and interdisciplinary research and scholarship promote human and economic development, global understanding, and advancement in professional practice through the expansion of knowledge and its applications in the natural and applied sciences, social and behavioral sciences, engineering, technology, arts and humanities, and myriad professions.
The University’s instructional mission includes undergraduate, graduate, professional, continuing and extension education, offered through both resident instruction and distance learning.
Penn State’s educational programs are enriched by the talent, knowledge, diversity, creativity and teaching and research acumen of its faculty, students and staff. As Pennsylvania’s sole land-grant university, Penn State provides unparalleled access to education and public service to support the citizens of the commonwealth and beyond. The University engages in collaborative activities with private sector, educational and governmental partners worldwide to generate, integrate, apply and disseminate knowledge that is valuable to society.