IPC Urges Electronics Inclusion in U.S. Tech R&D and Competitiveness Bill

By Chris Mitchell, IPC vice president, global government relations

IPC is calling on the U.S. Congress to make improvements to critically important legislation that would boost investment in federal research and development (R&D) in 10 high-tech fields.

The U.S. Innovation and Competitiveness Act (USICA), which includes the Endless Frontier Act (EFA), seeks to bolster U.S. leadership and competitiveness globally by investing “in the discovery, creation, and manufacturing of technology critical to U.S. national security and economic competitiveness.” The 10 technology focus areas include artificial intelligence; high-performance computing and semiconductors; robotics and automation; biotech; and advanced energy.

Congressional leaders are now working to reconcile this Senate-passed bill with two House-passed bills: the National Science Foundation for the Future Act and the Department of Energy Science for the Future Act.

By promoting R&D into cutting-edge technologies that depend on electronics manufacturing (EM), this bill ostensibly promises a wealth of opportunities for electronics manufacturers whose thin margins make investment in R&D difficult.

However, the legislation does not include a single reference to “electronics” let alone include it among the priorities focus areas. In not prioritizing electronics manufacturing, the bill risks perpetuating a troubling reality: the U.S. is increasingly a leader in designing technologies it can’t build.

To that end, IPC believes the United States should prioritize both designing and building the most cutting-edge technologies. Achieving this goal will require a sustained focus, just as the desire for leadership in semiconductor design and fabrication requires a special focus.

In a recent letter to the top senators on the U.S. Senate Commerce, Science, & Transportation Committee, IPC affirmed the importance of explicitly stating support for electronics manufacturing in the bill that emerges from House-Senate negotiations. Specifically, we call on congressional leaders to make two modest, clarifying changes that would truly strengthen the U.S. electronics manufacturing sector and the wider economy:

  • Add language specifically listing electronics manufacturing alongside semiconductors as a “key technology focus area.” Including electronics in the definition of this key technology area would help ensure that semiconductors fabricated in the United States can also be packaged and assembled into electronic systems here as well.
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  • Expand the National Advanced Packaging Manufacturing Program to include electronic interconnection. Advanced packaging of semiconductor chips relies on fabrication of substrates and interposers, as well as expertise in first-level assembly, all of which are technologies in which the United States currently lags.

To be clear, IPC strongly supports the enactment of this legislation. But we think the bill as written misses an opportunity to make the United States more globally competitive in the critically important electronics sector. Advancements in semiconductor technology have always been intricately linked to advancements in electronics manufacturing, such as printed circuit board (PCB) fabrication and assembly; and the interdependence is growing with current trends in microelectronics.

Persuading congressional leaders to make these modest but important changes to the bill is an uphill battle. But with so much at stake, we will continue to fight for it and ask for your help.  

Please visit the IPC Advocacy Center to send a message to your elected officials. Tell them this is a rare opportunity to set the framework for federal R&D for the coming decade, and it’s important to get it right.

Meanwhile, IPC is also developing a set of policy proposals to reinforce the U.S. Government’s commitment to fostering the electronics factories of the future. Stay tuned for more action on that front.

If you have any questions regarding the USICA, please contact me at ChrisMitchell@IPC.org.