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U.S. to Spend $50 Million on New Chips : Technology: Vice President Al Gore announces the program to build a center for semiconductor study.

March 03, 1994|From Reuters

WASHINGTON — Vice President Al Gore said Wednesday that the federal government will spend tens of millions of dollars to help U.S. companies "develop the computer chips of the 21st Century."

Gore spoke at a ceremony at which it was announced that the Clinton Administration will spend $50 million over five years to establish a center for the simulation and modeling of semiconductor materials, manufacturing processes and chip design.

The $100-million program will be set up by the Department of Energy and the semiconductor industry, which will pick up the other half of the cost, Energy Secretary Hazel O'Leary said.

Commerce Secretary Ronald H. Brown said the Administration will also seek funding for a $25-million, five-year National Semiconductor Metrology Program to help the industry meet its challenges, including developing ever-smaller measuring tools.

With Brown, O'Leary and representatives of the semiconductor industry at his side, Gore said the industry is at the heart of the global electronics revolution and is important to the United States for both economic and national security reasons.

"Computers and information-processing equipment are the engines pulling our economic recovery over the last year, accounting for most of the growth--three full percentage points of the growth--in U.S. industrial production," Gore said.

He said semiconductors will be the "V-8 engines on the information superhighway" the Administration is fostering and will continue to give the United States an edge in developing "smart" weapons that minimize casualties while destroying targets.

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Gore said the industry has been investing heavily to meet its challenges, plowing more than 25% of sales last year into research, development, new plants and equipment.

"This extraordinary high rate of investment is one reason the United States has regained the leadership worldwide of the semiconductor industry that it lost to Japan in the 1980s," Gore said.

O'Leary said that while the $50 million for the modeling and simulation center could come from existing funds in her department's budget, the Administration will have to ask Congress to approve most of the $25 million for the Commerce Department program.

She said it has not been decided where the modeling and simulation center will be built.

The White House said in a statement that the semiconductor industry employs 2.3 million Americans and is expected to grow to $2 trillion a year by 2000.

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