UF establishes Florida Semiconductor Institute to help chip production

semiconductor chip

The  University of Florida’s Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering announced Thursday the establishment of the Florida Semiconductor Institute, a campus- and state-wide coordinating hub to provide intellectual and technological leadership for semiconductors in the 21st Century.  

The federal government is investing billions of dollars in efforts to bring semiconductor manufacturing back to the United States and to advance domestic research in chip technology. The newly launched Florida Semiconductor Institute, or FSI, is poised to boost the state’s research and development within the sector as well as build and sustain Florida’s semiconductor workforce, which is now the fifth largest in the nation. 

“Microchips are an integral part of our society. The Florida Semiconductor Institute will serve as a hub to coordinate activities that will support the development and manufacturing of these vital chips here in Florida,” said UF President Ben Sasse in the press release. “In addition to advancing R&D and educational opportunities, the FSI will advise the state and foster public-private partnerships to enhance what is already a vibrant microchip industry in Florida.” 

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In 2022, Congress passed the bipartisan CHIPS and Science Act, which incentivized the reshoring of semiconductor manufacturing to the United States.

“While some states are just now starting to invest in semiconductor technology, Florida’s microchip industry is well established, and provides mission-critical chips for space, defense, and communication systems,” said Volker J. Sorger, director of the Florida Semiconductor Institute and UF’s Walden and Paula Rhines Professor in Semiconductor Photonics, in the press release. “As the hub for statewide chip efforts, we look forward to working with the state and private sector to launch an unprecedented workforce-development campaign, lead cutting-edge R&D, and empower strategic partnerships.” 

UF President Ben Sasse
Courtesy of UF UF President Ben Sasse

The Florida Semiconductor Institute includes participation from more than 60 faculty within the Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering representing every department as well as from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Furthermore, it includes academic partners from other universities across Florida and a variety of private industry partners. 

“Florida universities offer programs that prepare students for careers in semiconductor technology,” said Ray Rodrigues, chancellor of the State University System. “The launch of the Florida Semiconductor Institute will further connect learners at all levels with industry leaders and forge pathways for economic success through valuable workforce education programs.”  

Forrest Masters, UF’s interim engineering dean, said the different fields within engineering must work together to advance the performance and assurance of future chip technology.

“Through a cross-disciplinary approach, we can innovate and develop the workforce that is needed,” he said in the press release.

To meet the university’s educational needs, the FSI will launch a comprehensive education and training program that will serve not only universities but also state colleges, vocational schools, and private industry.  

“Our vision is to double the state’s semiconductor workforce within a few years,” said Mark Tehranipoor, chair of UF’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, or ECE, and the Intel Charles E. Young Preeminence Endowed Chair Professor in Cybersecurity. “In conjunction with other educational state institutions and UF departments, ECE will provide a large number of university-level courses with additional professional training programs such as the Microelectronics Security Training (MEST) Center, which provides flexible, expert-led training programs tailored to industry needs.” 

Activities within the institute have already begun with several workshops and team meetings held to discuss workforce development and cutting-edge R&D directions. Members are preparing for upcoming rounds of federal funding and potential state initiatives to drive translational research and innovative educational programs, Sorger said. 

The Florida Semiconductor Institute will be housed in Malachowsky Hall for Data Science & Information Technology, a brand new 263,000-square-foot academic building located in the heart of UF’s main campus, slated to open this fall. 

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I obtained my BSEE in semiconductors from UF back in the 80s. The importance of moving semiconductor research and production back to the US can’t be overstated. I just hope there will be protections implemented to secure the intellectual property developed at UF.