Advancing Research for the Future of U.S. Innovation

By: Gabriela Cruz Thompson, Intel Lab’s Director of University Research and Collaboration

Gabriela Cruz Thompson, Intel

At Intel, we are dedicated to advancing research and development (R&D) and paving the way for the next generation of forward-thinking technologists who are defining future computing and communications. We select, fund and manage critical research centers at leading universities and ensure research results are translated into ideas that lead to transformative innovation worldwide.

For decades, Intel has partnered with the National Science Foundation (NSF). We serve as cofounders of the Semiconductor Research Corporation (SRC), the world’s leading non-profit, industry-government-academia microelectronics research consortium funding academic research tasks selected and directed by industry and government members, and we collaborate on several other initiatives aimed at generating technology breakthroughs and fueling innovation in the market.

Today, I had the honor to share the extent and scope of NSF-Intel partnerships before the House Science Committee and expressed Intel’s support for the National Science Foundation for the Future Act, which comprehensively reauthorizes NSF and sets a new policy direction to further enable U.S. innovation, empowering the NSF to foster scientific discovery while aiding the acceleration of new ideas into commercialization.

I am particularly encouraged by the Act’s creation of a new Directorate for Science and Engineering Solutions and calls to increase overall funding for NSF and STEM workforce programs. These initiatives would bring together and allow us to work with NSF and industry representatives across industry and academia in a way that would encourage more partnerships between top tier research institutions, historically black colleges and universities as well as minority-serving and tribal institutions, ultimately expanding research efforts and enabling technology innovation to flourish once again in the U.S.

Intel’s own AI associate degree program, launched in 2020 in Arizona’s Maricopa Community College District, is an example of a program that the NSF could augment in a way that would reach far beyond its current footprint. We are eager to collaborate with such a network of institutions and the diverse community of students that would be brought together.

The Act’s provisions focused on research reproducibility and replicability would further satisfy historical requests from many in academia by developing and widely disseminating criteria for trusted open data and software repositories. The concept of usability and formatting the vast ocean of data being generated by ubiquitous computing is important to ensuring data accessibility to partners.

Additional Policy Recommendations – the NSF for the Future Act
While we are encouraged by the NSF for the Future Act’s current provisions, there are still more opportunities for us to strengthen partnerships between the public and private sectors and academia, as well as focus more on the critical economic and national security priorities of increased semiconductor manufacturing and R&D in the U.S.

Encouraging more opportunities for private companies to partner with NSF and academia by expanding the eligibility criteria for consortia, explicitly allowing private companies to participate and receive funding directly from NSF, is one such example. Our successful experience with consortia like the SRC has demonstrated the positive benefits of such a model, and we believe there would be increased interest and engagement with NSF from private industry if these partnership opportunities were formally elevated and more broadly enabled.

Formally codifying the Convergence Accelerator program and increasing its size and scope in a way that would scale to meet the ideals of the Directorate for Science and Engineering Solutions would provide a positive example of a funding mechanism and model for the support of translational research and collaboration.

The Directorate for Science and Engineering Solutions could also expand employment rotation opportunities at NSF to a broader scope of research community members, beyond just university academics, to private company employees, non-profits, and others, by incentivizing institutions to encourage faculty to engage in such opportunities. These unique NSF experiences both reward individuals with immense professional and personal growth and enrich the teams at NSF. This expansion would facilitate improved public-private collaboration and could ultimately serve as another mechanism to increase technology transfer.

Finally, Intel supports more robust funding from the federal government to implement additional semiconductor manufacturing and R&D programs established under the CHIPS for America Act, enacted earlier this year. We recommend connecting the expanded NSF scope, as described in the NSF for the Future Act, with the National Semiconductor Technology Center (NSTC) consortium established through the CHIPS for America Act.

It is also critical that the new proposed Directorate and programs conceived under the NSF for the Future Act leverage NSTC infrastructure and workforce development opportunities, establishing a pipeline of both technology solutions and trained domestic engineers and technicians with hands-on development experience from the NSTC. Access to and partnership with the NSTC would enable significant proof-of- concept demonstrations and technology transfer to domestic manufacturing capability as well as critical opportunities for NSF-funded students in addition to the infrastructure required to mature the technology created by NSF research. This type of research and prototyping of advanced semiconductor technology would vastly improve the domestic semiconductor supply chain’s economic competitiveness and national security.

We look forward to working with Congress and federal agencies, including NSF, to understand better and make recommendations about how the NSTC will be implemented. We recommend the NSF for the Future Act sponsors provide further insight into the legislation on how this ambitious new project and a new NSF Directorate for Science and Engineering Solutions could intersect.

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