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ASU, TSMC announce partnership for workforce and research innovation

July 27, 2023

Partnership will focus on student support, recruitment, faculty research

Arizona State University and the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) today announced a partnership agreement focused on student support, training and recruitment, and faculty work projects and research that will deepen the existing relationship between ASU and the world’s leading manufacturer of semiconductor chips. 

The university and the company have already been engaged in planning sessions, career fairs and events welcoming TSMC employees and their families. As familiarity has grown stronger, specific working relationship opportunities have emerged, mobilizing the expertise and capabilities of ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering to drive research, development and innovation.

“We have been working closely for a couple of years to carefully define what TSMC needs from ASU and how we can deliver on that for the company and for the greater Phoenix community,” said Grace O’Sullivan, vice president of corporate engagement for ASU. “There is a lot more work to do, but we are learning how best to collaborate and we have built a foundation for long-term success.”

Brian Harrison, president of TSMC Arizona, said, “When making the decision to expand in the U.S., one of the considerations was access to world-class engineering talent to help us operate the most sophisticated semiconductor manufacturing technology in the world. There’s no doubt that the presence of Arizona State University, equally committed to a culture of innovation, was one of many reasons we chose Phoenix for our U.S. operation.

"As we deepen our roots in the state, we are especially grateful for the relationship we have with ASU. We are deeply committed to building a foundation which will serve not only TSMC, but the semiconductor industry at large for years to come.” 

As the 2025 opening date for its Phoenix semiconductor fabrication plant, or fab, draws closer, the urgency increases. When complete, this fab will be the most advanced chipmaking technology on U.S. soil, further increasing the need for a prepared, highly trained workforce.

Since 2020, TSMC has been actively recruiting talent across the U.S. In fact, many of its earliest hires are graduates of ASU who spent several months training in Taiwan before returning to Phoenix.

The collaboration between ASU and TSMC has since expanded beyond student recruiting to include:

  • Enhancing educational outcome commitments to expand the capacity of lab courses, master's fellowships, undergraduate research programs and an annual symposium.
  • Expanding the talent pipeline, which includes membership in the Corporate Affiliate Program through ASU’s career centers. The career centers target outreach and a variety of other deliverables as part of the sponsorship program. This will provide a pipeline of ASU students for TSMC's Arizona fab hiring needs, and it will give the company a stronger presence in the Fulton Schools' career and internship programs. In its first year, ASU juniors, seniors and graduate students will be included in a program focused on engineering and manufacturing interns, and business and infrastructure interns. TSMC will also be connected to the university’s Access ASU program, which provides access to semiconductor career paths for high school and transfer students.
  • Non-degree professional and career education. TSMC will collaborate with ASU’s CareerCatalyst team to build a portfolio of skills-based education solutions, collaboratively designed to develop TSMC’s current workforce in critical skill areas for non-degree seeking professionals. Initial areas of focus are microelectronics engineering, management and leadership.
  • Direct student support. TSMC supports master's fellowships and scholarships for thesis-track students that are aligned with semiconductor research. TSMC also will provide support for lab courses for students in the School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering to offer more hands-on learning opportunities to students interested in the semiconductor industry. This will double the number of students that are able to participate.
  • Faculty engagement. TSMC will support ASU faculty research through research and mentorship programs for master's fellowship students and ASU’s Fulton Undergraduate Research Initiative (FURI) program. In addition, TSMC and ASU faculty will engage in joint research workshops.

The ASU-TSMC partnership not only serves the company and the university, it sets up the industry and its supply chain for success, which will benefit the entire community over many years, bringing stable employment and adding to the state’s business infrastructure.

“As we continue to grow our semiconductor industry in Phoenix and the region, this new partnership between ASU and TSMC will create a strong talent pipeline for years to come, filling new, good-paying jobs and ultimately boosting our local economy,” Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego said. “When I was helping recruit TSMC in Taiwan, a key selling point was ASU and its robust investment in its students and the whole Valley community. Today’s announcement reflects our shared commitment and vision to make sure Phoenix and its residents make the most of the many great opportunities TSMC is bringing to our city.” 

Chris Camacho, president and CEO of the Greater Phoenix Economic Council, said, “ASU’s dedication to bolstering the greater Phoenix workforce is rooted in the university’s innovation and consistent collaboration with community and industry leaders. Regional leaders listen to the needs of industry. They collaborate to bring ideas to fruition. They work to build programs that help all. This partnership between TSMC and ASU reflects the region’s dedication to fulfilling the workforce needs of the entire semiconductor ecosystem as we become an international center for the industry.”

While building the workforce development pipeline continues, ASU and TSMC will also look to coordinate in attracting and participating in activities that advance the industry in the region, such as the IEEE Circuits and Systems Society in August and the Semicon West conference, which will be hosted in Phoenix in October 2025. The company and the university will also continue to explore co-locating at the TSMC site in west Phoenix; at ASU's West campus; at ASU's Polytechnic campus; and at ASU’s MacroTechnology Works facility, located at the ASU Research Park in Tempe.

Top photo: A TSMC early talent manager talks with an ASU student in October 2022 on the Tempe campus. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News

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Prototyping facility will give students, startups access to semiconductor space

July 27, 2023

$270M Materials-to-Fab Center to be built at ASU's MacroTechnology Works in Tempe

The new cutting-edge prototyping facility announced recently by Arizona State University and Applied Materials Inc. will not only speed the time it takes for lab innovations to become real-life solutions, it also will allow ASU’s students to get the hands-on experience they need to become part of the new microelectronics workforce.

The $270 million Materials-to-Fab Center, aided by the Arizona Commerce Authority, will bring Applied Materials’ semiconductor-manufacturing equipment to the university’s MacroTechnology Works building at ASU Research Park.

Preparing students for the technology jobs of the future is critical – and a major goal of the New Economy Initiative, according to Sally Morton, executive vice president of ASU’s Knowledge Enterprise.

“When you sit with industry leaders and say, ‘What is keeping you up at night?’ they say, ‘people’ — the number of people and the diversity and inclusion of people,” she said.

“They see ASU at the forefront of providing an excellent workforce.”

Another important aspect of the new facility is finding a way to speed the time from lab innovation to prototype to commercial production.

“Things are slow. We do something at the university and it might take awhile to get into production,” Morton said.

“We need to speed up. The industry is moving so quickly and we have to get these ideas more quickly into production.”

That time lag is referred to as the "Valley of Death.”

“I think of this center as a physical space, intellectual space, educational space — all of those things working as a bridge across that Valley of Death,” she said.

“And it’s a bridge that students can walk on and faculty can walk on and industry can walk on together — that’s what makes it so important.”

Video courtesy Applied Materials

Kyle Squires, vice provost of engineering, computing and technology at ASU, said that Applied Materials’ equipment is world class.

“The university was very strategic about ensuring that our ASU faculty and students, properly trained, can have access, and that’s a major advantage. They’re going to do better research and be skilled users,” he said.

And that access will have ripple effects in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, said Squires, who also is dean of the Fulton Schools.

“It creates capability, and that draws faculty to come here and motivates faculty who are already here to direct research that utilizes those tools,” he said.

“That, in turn, increases our reputation and our ability to recruit students and it starts to create a more robust pipeline of going from ideas in the lab to making prototypes and training students, and that’s a very unique ecosystem,” he said.

And ASU’s partners will benefit too.

“This is a resource for the entire state,” Morton said.

“Startups don’t have the money to buy this equipment. If they have an idea for a semiconductor wafer and want to produce it, they will now have that access.”

Morton said the machines or tools in the Materials-to-Fab Center test different materials and etchings on silicon wafers, a key component of electronic applications.

“One interesting thing to me is that the facility will be open 24/7,” she said.

“These are expensive machines and they want them running all the time. That doesn’t mean we’ll be taking students at 3 a.m., but we’ll be staffing the MacroTechnology Works to keep it open 'round the clock.”

The new project is an expansion of an existing partnership between ASU and Applied Materials.

“They’ve worked with ASU and have been impressed with our innovation and our commitment to inclusion,” Morton said.

“We’re a tested partner with them. This is an enhancement of that partnership. It’s been earned.”

Top photo of ASU's MacroTechnology Works facility by Charlie Leight/ASU News

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU News