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ASU, Applied Materials to create Materials-to-Fab Center at ASU Research Park

More than $270M in corporate, state investment will help advance Arizona's semiconductor industry


A large piece of equipment sits in a lab.

Applied Materials' Centura, a reactive ion etcher, sits in the MacroTechnology Works facility at the ASU Research Park in Tempe. Reactive ion etching is generally used to transfer a pattern into a thin film. The new Materials-to-Fab Center, announced today and expected to be operational within two years, will bring Applied Materials’ state-of-the-art semiconductor manufacturing equipment into a collaborative environment where ASU and Applied Materials can work with industry partners, startups, government entities and academic institutions. Photo by Jayce Hayden/ASU

July 11, 2023

Editor’s note: This story is featured in the 2023 year in review.

Arizona State University and Applied Materials Inc. today announced an alliance, aided by the Arizona Commerce Authority, that brings more than $270 million to create a world-class shared research, development and prototyping facility — the Materials-to-Fab (MTF) Center — in the university’s MacroTechnology Works building at ASU Research Park.

The MTF Center will be designed to accelerate the transfer of innovations from ideation to fab prototype by bringing Applied Materials’ state-of-the-art semiconductor manufacturing equipment into a collaborative environment where ASU and Applied Materials can work with industry partners, startups, government entities and academic institutions. The MTF Center will provide students and faculty with opportunities for hands-on learning and research on the same 300mm equipment used in leading-edge production fabs.

Applied Materials is the world’s largest provider of semiconductor manufacturing equipment. The company in May announced plans to build the Equipment and Process Innovation and Commercialization (EPIC) Center in California’s Silicon Valley. The EPIC Center is planned as the heart of a high-velocity innovation platform that includes a network of hubs at leading universities, each focused on materials and process innovation. The new MTF Center at ASU will be home to Applied’s Center of Excellence in materials deposition technology.

“Applied Materials and Arizona State University already enjoy a close partnership, and this new alliance around the Materials-to-Fab Center will take things to a new level,” ASU President Michael Crow said. “But what is more important than the partnership is what it will do for the industry and the country. This is the beginning of a reconfiguration of the way to accelerate discovery and translational research outcomes in response to real-world challenges and the development of next-generational processes, materials, equipment and workforce.”

Applied Materials President and CEO Gary Dickerson said, “Applied Materials is excited to build upon our successful track record of collaboration with Arizona State University by adding the Materials-to-Fab Center to our university innovation network. Applied Materials envisions the center at ASU playing a key role in accelerating materials engineering innovations, commercializing academic research and strengthening the pipeline of future semiconductor industry talent.”

Design of the MTF Center has already begun, and the new lab is expected to be operational within two years. The MTF Center project is supported by investments of $30 million from the Arizona Commerce Authority and $17 million from ASU. Applied Materials' contributions are anticipated to exceed $200 million including capital investments, equipment operation and maintenance, and research and scholarship funding.

High-quality universities are one of America’s greatest advantages in the global competition for semiconductor manufacturing, research and development. What Applied Materials and Arizona State University are doing is smart, and the successful implementation of the Materials-to-Fab facility will establish an innovation and job-creation engine for the semiconductor ecosystem in Arizona.

— Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs

In an effort to build an inclusive talent pipeline, Applied Materials also intends to launch an endowment fund that will provide scholarships to first-generation and/or underrepresented minority students in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at ASU. In addition, the Applied Materials Momentum Fund will be available to ASU students. The Momentum Fund provides grants to women pursuing undergraduate degrees in engineering as they approach degree completion, helping to overcome potential financial barriers and accelerating access to careers in the semiconductor industry.

“High-quality universities are one of America’s greatest advantages in the global competition for semiconductor manufacturing, research and development,” Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs said. “What Applied Materials and Arizona State University are doing is smart, and the successful implementation of the Materials-to-Fab facility will establish an innovation and job-creation engine for the semiconductor ecosystem in Arizona.”

Arizona is one of the nation’s key centers of microelectronics activity – home to some of the nation’s leading semiconductor producers and suppliers, major defense contractors, world-class universities and research institutes, and a vibrant startup community. The MTF Center will be an asset to small and large companies across the state and the Southwest region and a key capability for connecting ongoing investments in research and manufacturing. It will provide a nexus for academic-industry collaboration in support of the objectives of the CHIPS and Science Act.

“The MTF Center will accelerate the development, commercialization and manufacturing of next-generation U.S. semiconductor-based technologies while bolstering the state’s infrastructure, workforce and research capabilities,” said Sandra Watson, president and CEO of the Arizona Commerce Authority. “We’re proud to play a leading role supporting this first-of-its-kind partnership between one of the world’s leading semiconductor companies and America’s most innovative university.”

Crow said, “ASU and Applied Materials have created a foundation of collaboration, and we have already seen its value. What this alliance will do is expand impact, deliver the mechanisms for finding new ways of doing things and, if we are successful, it will yield results that we can use to innovate again. This is work that is never finished, so as exciting as it is to be where we are today, you can expect to hear more from us on this front in the future, and we encourage others to take this model and replicate it.”

More about MacroTechnology Works

Video by Jayce Hayden/ASU

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