The semiconductor industry faced an acute shortage in production as a result of the pandemic. This has led to a great concern for countries that are dependent on the cutting-edge labs that are mostly located in Taiwan and South Korea. This is why government agencies, including the Department of Defense (DoD), are kick-starting initiatives to encourage chip manufacturing companies to increase the domestic construction of next-generation fabs. Today, the DoD is awarding Intel an agreement to commercially provide foundry services.
Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger said:
“One of the most profound lessons of the past year is the strategic importance of semiconductors, and the value to the United States of having a strong domestic semiconductor industry. Intel is the sole American company both designing and manufacturing logic semiconductors at the leading edge of technology. When we launched Intel Foundry Services earlier this year, we were excited to have the opportunity to make our capabilities available to a wider range of partners, including in the U.S. government, and it is great to see that potential being fulfilled through programs like RAMP-C.”
RAMP-C, which is the Rapid Assured Microelectronics Prototypes - Commercial, is one of several US government programs intended to encourage domestic chip production. The RAMP-C program is focused on chip production for defense needs as the DoD wants to ensure all its chips are fabricated within the United States on a leading-edge commercial manufacturing node.
Intel will be leading a consortium of companies that includes IBM, Cadence, Synopsys, and more that will provide relevant expertise and technologies to the project. The Department of Defense needs a semiconductor IP ecosystem. This will happen around Intel's upcoming 18A process, which is the most advanced process on their development roadmap. The process isn't due to start until 2025 according to Intel's roadmap.
It is a major achievement for Intel to get the DoD as its customer, especially at a time when old ones are parting ways. With the cutting-edge fab ecosystem, Intel can also become a leader in contract foundry services in the near future.