Rochester Institute of Technology is joining five other U.S. universities in an international partnership aimed at improving competitiveness in computer chip design, development and manufacturing.
The U.S.-Japan University Partnership for Workforce Advancement and Research & Development in Semiconductors for the Future (UPWARDS) was announced over the weekend at the G7 Summit in Japan. UPWARDS for the Future is a partnership between Micron Corp. and the National Science Foundation.
The program will expand engineering education and research to underrepresented students and faculty, pairing at total of 11 universities for shared learning across the two countries.
RIT joins Boise State University, Purdue University, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, the University of Washington and Virginia Tech from the U.S. The Japanese schools participating are Hiroshima University, Kyushu University, Nagoya University, Tohoku University and Tokyo Institute of Technology.
“Leading in next-generation technologies requires developing a next-generation workforce,” Rahm Emanuel, U.S. Ambassador to Japan, said in a news release. “Semiconductors are critical to our economy and to our security, and the UPWARDS for the Future program will enable the United States and Japan, as allies and economic partners, to build that workforce.”
RIT already had established one of the country’s first microelectronic engineering degree programs in the country. More than 1,500 alums currently work in the semiconductor field.
The program blends theoretical knowledge with hands-on training to design and build chips. Through the UPWARDS partnership, RIT will participate in curriculum development, student and faculty exchanges, research projects and Micron’s Women in Semiconductors (WiSe) program.
“As a leading producer of STEM graduates, Rochester Institute of Technology recognizes the crucial role that semiconductors and related technologies play in driving innovation and economic growth,” RIT President David Munson said in a news release. “More importantly, we are committed to fostering diversity and removing educational barriers.”
RIT’s Kate Gleason College of Engineering (KGCOE), the College of Engineering Technology (CET) and RIT Certified will play significant roles in the UPWARDS initiative:
» Future and current engineers are being taught and trained for jobs in the semiconductor industry, from research and design to semiconductor manufacturing and electronic packaging.
» Faculty and graduate students enrolled in RIT’s doctoral programs in microsystems engineering and electrical and computer engineering will collaborate on research as part of the UPWARDS partnerships.
» RIT’s cleanroom, the Semiconductor and Microsystems Fabrication Lab, is undergoing an expansion, with $2 million in funding for the project coming from the U.S. Department of Commerce Omnibus Bill.
“This is an exciting opportunity for our students and faculty,” said Doreen Edwards, dean of KGCOE. “Our college has been educating microelectronic engineers for the semiconductor industry for over 40 years. The UPWARDS for the Future Program will attract a whole new generation of diverse engineers who will be well prepared to contribute to this important global industry.”
Funding for UPWARDS — more than $60 million over the next five years — will come from Micron, as well as in-kind donations from the founding institutions.
Each university will participate in student exchanges, provide summer research opportunities and fellowship programs, and provide faculty support.
Micron is planning to invest up to $100 billion over the next 20 years to build a semiconductor fabrication center in suburban Syracuse. When announcing the plans in October, Micron said site selection was based on proximity to higher education, research and development laboratories, supply chain access and a skilled workforce.
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