The world is abuzz. Since the passage of the CHIPS and Science Act in August 2022, everyone everywhere has been talking about “semiconductors,” “chips” and “integrated circuits.” When the federal government puts $39 billion aside for direct funding to companies in a specific industry, this buzz makes sense. Half of the conversations likely miss the breadth and intricacies of the market and the ubiquity of this diverse range of products in modern life. Nonetheless, one thing is certain: the world is beginning to understand the fundamental necessity of this technology for the future – and beginning to support its growth.
Where should the industry look as it contemplates its growth and the future? How about mountainous, colorful and high-tech Colorado?
Colorado is among a handful of states where this industry has a strong presence. According to data from the Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA), the state ranks ninth in the nation for total semiconductor facilities: not bad for a state that ranks 21st in total population. It hosts two major fabrication facilities – one each of Broadcom and Microchip – along with InnovaFlex Foundry, the only flat panel semiconductor foundry outside of Asia. Some of the largest IDMs and fabless companies in the world – Intel, Micron, AMD, NVIDIA, Analog Devices, Western Digital, Qualcomm and Infineon – have substantial design and R&D centers there. In fact, the same SIA data show that Colorado is fifth in concentration of design and R&D activities, making it a national hub for semiconductor innovation. Supply chain companies like Entegris, CoorsTek, Forge Nano, and others manufacture essential supplies, equipment and materials in the state, while EDA providers Cadence and Synopsis develop integral design tools there.
This dense, diverse and innovative local semiconductor value chain does not operate in isolation.
On one side is a robust and collaborative R&D ecosystem that includes top-tier research universities and federally-funded labs. The University of Colorado, Colorado State University and Colorado School of Mines all have robust computer and electrical engineering programs and research infrastructure, such as the UCCS Microelectronics Research Laboratory. The National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Boulder Labs – just one of over 30 federally-funded labs in the state – has been at the forefront of many technological advancements, and will now lead the CHIPS Metrology R&D Program to further enable measurement as the industry pushes “More than Moore” to atomic limits.
On the other is a cluster of high-tech industries pushing the requirements of performance that create the demand and will lead to further innovation in microelectronics. Colorado is a leading state for aerospace and defense, clean tech, telecommunications, software, bioscience and industries that rely on semiconductors as the enabling technology. Renowned companies like Lockheed Martin, Solid Power, Apple, Google and Pfizer are developing in Colorado the next generation of space vehicles, batteries, wireless, AI and pharmaceuticals that require advancement in semiconductor solutions for communication, power control and computation, among many other applications.
Supporting it all is a business-friendly state government committed to igniting growth of this vibrant semiconductor ecosystem.
Over the last year, the State of Colorado launched a CHIPS Act Task Force, hired a Semiconductor Industry Manager and launched new programs to support the development of STEM infrastructure, childcare and workforce: Opportunity Now Colorado. It also expanded its tax incentives for business attraction and retention, with the creation of Colorado CHIPS Refundable Tax Credits and CHIPS Zones. The first allows semiconductor and advanced manufacturing companies to take a cash refund on specific earned income tax credits from the state’s existing Job Growth Incentive Tax Credits (JGITC) and Enterprise Zone (EZ) programs through the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade. There are $75 million of these credits to be distributed over the next five years. The second allows semiconductor companies to access certain EZ credits when operating in a CHIPS Zone, which must be designated by local governments and approved by the state.
The CHIPS Act is a once-in-a-generation opportunity that is catalyzing global growth of semiconductors. Colorado has all the pieces to take a leading position in this race. As Dan Salvetti, Colorado’s Semiconductor Industry Manager, said: “Colorado is the place to be. We have the industry, we have the talent, and we have a government that supports semiconductor growth. Come join us.”