The US could be up to two decades away from maintaining its own domestic chips supply chain, Nvidia Corp.’s CEO, Jensen Huang, told an audience gathered in New York for the New York Times’s DealBook conference.
Nvidia is a giant in the semiconductor industry, and Huang said his company’s success depends on “myriad components that come from different parts of the world,” Bloomberg reported. “Not just Taiwan,” Huang said, where Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing company makes the world’s most advanced semiconductor technology.
“We are somewhere between a decade and two decades away from supply chain independence,” Huang said. “It’s not a really practical thing for a decade or two.”
The higher end of Huang’s timeline suggests that the US may have much longer to go than is expected to develop supply chains fully independent from suppliers abroad. But on the lower end, Huang’s estimate exactly matches the Biden administration’s current expectations.
Earlier this month, the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s director Laurie E. Locascio estimated that “within a decade, we envision that America will both manufacture and package the world’s most sophisticated chips.”
Last month, due to a perceived national security risk, the US tightened up export controls that restricted some companies, including Nvidia, from selling their most advanced technologies to China.
In response, Huang confirmed that Nvidia has continued seeking ways to do business in China, which is one of the world’s largest semiconductor markets. While Huang said that the US’s new rules are “absolutely” necessary for national security, he said that Nvidia is “working on products for China that will not trigger restrictions,” Bloomberg reported.
“We have to come up with new chips that comply with the regulation, and once we comply with the regulation, we’ll go back to China,” Huang said. “We try to do business with everybody we can. On the other hand, our national security matters. Our national competitiveness matters.”
Huang is concerned that new rules may have unintended consequences, though. This year, Nvidia achieved what The New Yorker reported was “one of the largest single-day gains in stock-market history”—spiking its value by $200 billion. But more recently, Nvidia warned its investors last quarter that a drop may be coming this quarter due to export controls, CNBC reported.
If US companies lose revenue, they could become less competitive. That risks the US falling behind, Huang suggested, while China potentially finds ways around export controls to acquire leading technology anyway that can “inspire” its own chip advancements.
CHIPS and Science Act missing the “science half”
In August, the US Chamber of Commerce (COC) explained the reasons why the US may be further behind on achieving the domestic chips supply chain of the Biden administration’s dreams.
Celebrating one year after the CHIPS and Science Act passed, the COC noted that so far, the US has invested $53 billion and private companies have announced more than $166 billion in semiconductor-related investments.
But too much of the focus has been on launching the $39 billion semiconductor incentive program when the Act “contains several other complementary and crucial programs that should be prioritized,” the COC said.
“While Congress fully funded the semiconductor investments, they did not fully fund the increases in the science and R&D authorizations,” the COC said, suggesting that “policymakers should prioritize funding the ‘science half’ of the CHIPS and Science Act.”
The COC also pointed to a study from the Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) that found the US is not adequately preparing a highly skilled workforce to meet future talent needs. SIA estimated that “67,000, or 58 percent, of projected new jobs, may remain unfulfilled at the current trajectory.”
To meet talent needs, the COC recommended that the US consider immigration reform and partner with the private sector to “help establish a semiconductor talent pipeline through continued focus on and investment in K-12 education, as well as graduate and undergraduate programs at colleges and universities, including community colleges.
According to the COC, funding for science and R&D in the past year was “$2.7 billion short of authorized levels,” and next year’s budget risks widening that gap by $5.1 billion.
Overall, the COC expects that even fully implementing the CHIPS and Science Act ultimately won’t “address all challenges with semiconductor competitiveness and R&D leadership.” Achieving that goal “merits additional action by federal policymakers,” the COC said.
To fill in the gaps until new policy is passed, the COC recommended that the US consider relying on “strong international cooperation” between allied countries making semiconductor supply chain advancements, like Japan, South Korea, the European Union, and the United Kingdom.