The Semiconductor Research Corporation, private sector partners and the federal government are teaming up to award $15 million in grants designed to accelerate research into nano-based electronics.

The grants are part of the Nanoelectronics Research Initiative (NRI), the purpose of which is to develop semiconductors incorporation nanometer-scale materials. The National Institute of Standards and Technology, or NIST, includes the SRC and numerous private-sector partners, is working in conjunction with the Commerce Department.

The initiative hopes to help create nano-scale semiconductors “beyond” silicon content found in chips today over the next five to 10 years. The $15 million in grants announced Monday are the first for the NIST program. The grants will be awarded over the next three years.

“These new awards are an important milestone for America’s exploration of nanoelectronics, expanding both the research projects and the number of U.S. universities involved,” said Jeff Wleser of SRC who is director of the project.

“The deep technological expertise and funding combined under the NRI and NIST partnership bodes well for the U.S. in the race to find the next semiconductor device,” he added. “The importance of maintaining our leadership in nanoelectronics can’t be overstated for the future of the U.S. economy.”

The NRI funding includes support for the Western Institute of Nanoelectronics, the Institute for Nanoelectronics Discovery and Exploration, the South West Academy of Nanoelectronics, and the Midwest Academy for Nanoelectronics and Architectures.

Private sector companies involved in the NRI program include Advanced Micro Devices, Freescale Semiconductor, IBM, Intel, Micron Technology and Texas Instruments,

For more information about the NRI program, visit the SRC and NRI Web sites.