OSU leads million dollar project to grow semiconductor ecosystem

CORVALLIS, Ore. (KGW) — Oregon State University just learned it will be spearheading a million-dollar project to advance semiconductor technologies in the Pacific Northwest. The project leader hopes it grows Oregon’s silicone forest into more parts of the state.

Oregon is already blazing some trails in the world of semiconductors, the essential components of electronic devices, in everything from phones to toasters to trucks.

The nickname “silicone forest” refers to the hub of semiconductor research and production in Washington County, anchored by Intel.

But in terms of education, Oregon State University’s College of Engineering has long been a leader in the field.

OSU Professor of Chemical Engineering Greg Herman is the project leader. He says the million-dollar project grant from the National Science Foundation is aimed at bringing semiconductor interests together.

“It’s a mechanism to get closer relationships between industry and academia other entities,” said Herman.

The professor said OSU will work with the University of Washington, Boise State University, the Oregon Business Council and more than 20 other partners, building up the semiconductor ecosystem in the Pacific Northwest over the next two years.

“So we’re doing everything from STEM outreach K-through-12, meeting across all of the states, meeting with high school students and younger. And counselors to let them know what the whole semiconductor industry is. Most people hear about semiconductors but don’t really know what that entails,” said Herman.

It is a prime time for such a project; Oregon U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D) was a key player in passing last year’s $52-billion Federal Chips and Science Act.

And this spring the state legislature passed the Oregon Chips Act, which Governor Tina Kotek says she’ll sign. $210 million intended to give Oregon businesses a leg up, applying for federal chips funding.

Herman hopes the chips acts, and OSU’s efforts on the project, will grow the silicone forest far beyond its hub, in Hillsboro.

“I’d like to see that we’re actually building opportunities out into the other regions of Oregon. So seeing eastern Oregon and southern Oregon expanding in the semiconductor space.”

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