RALEIGH – A new semiconductor research hub will be developed by a partnership including Wolfspeed, N.C. State and North Carolina A&T with the federal government choosing the group for a $39.4 million grant.

It’s called the Commercial Leap Ahead for Wide Bandgap Semiconductors, or CLAWS, Hub.

Other partners include Adroit Materials, General Electric and Kyma.

The partnership, which is led by NCSU, landed one of eight federal research hubs through the “Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors (CHIPS) and Science Act.”

“I’d like to thank the DOD for choosing to invest in NC State’s CLAWS proposal,” said U.S. Senator Ted Budd. “It is critical that the United States takes the lead in semiconductor manufacturing, and it was a privilege to advocate for North Carolina’s unique capacity to get the job done for our national and economic security.”

North Carolina’s Congressional delegation backed the CLAWS project in a letter sent to the Pentagon in June.

A rendering of new Wolfspeed plant to be built in Chatham County. (Wolfspeed image)

What’s expected of the Hubs: Commercial Leap Ahead Technologies

“Hubs are expected to spur economic growth across their respective regions and the economy at large. Hubs are charged with developing the physical, digital, and human infrastructure needed to support future success in microelectronics research and development. This includes building education pipelines and retraining initiatives to ensure the United States has the talent pool needed to sustain these investments. Hubs are expected to become self-sufficient by the end of their initial five-year awards.”

“The Microelectronics Commons is focused on bridging and accelerating the lab-to-fab transition, that infamous valley of death between R&D and production,” said Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks in the announcement. “President Biden’s CHIPS Act will supercharge America’s ability to prototype, manufacture, and produce microelectronics scale. CHIPS and Science made clear to America — and the world — that the U.S. government is committed to ensuring that our industrial and scientific powerhouses can deliver what we need to secure our future in this era of strategic competition.”

What is CLAWS?

In that letter they described the project this way:

“CLAWS is focused on accelerating the development of wide- and ultrawide-bandgap (WBG and UWBG, respectively) semiconductors to help meet DoD’s present and future needs. WBG and UWBG semiconductors are essential for national security and would assure DoD technological superiority over adversaries by providing new capabilities, efficiencies, and size, weight, and performance advantages for critical applications including weapons systems and communications. Additionally, this investment in WBG technologies will have an enormous dual-use defense and commercial potential to improve microgrids and the larger power grid.”

Wolfspeed is among the companies also seeking funding from the CHIPS act as it builds a new semiconductor plant in Chatham County. It’s also working with A&T to create a research center focused on chips.

Defining Widegap – and what are DOD priorities?

Widegap semiconductors allow devices to “operate at much higher voltages, frequencies, and temperatures than conventional semiconductor materials like silicon and gallium arsenide,” notes Wikipedia. Wolfspeed utilizes both silicon and gallium in its lineup of semiconductors.

According to the Department of Defense, the focus on the new hubs includes work in “six technology areas critical to the DoD mission. …  Each Hub will be advancing U.S. technology leadership in one or more of these areas:

  • Secure Edge/Internet of Things (IoT) Computing
  • 5G/6G
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI) Hardware
  • Quantum Technology
  • Electromagnetic Warfare
  • Commercial Leap Ahead Technologies

“Consistent with our warfighter-centric approach to innovation,” said Hicks, “these hubs will tackle many technical challenges relevant to DoD’s missions, to get the most cutting-edge microchips into systems our troops use every day: ships, planes, tanks, long-range munitions, communications gear, sensors, and much more… including the kinds of all-domain, attritable autonomous systems that we’ll be fielding through the Department’s recently-announced Replicator initiative.”

Wolfspeed, NC A&T to seek federal funding for R&D facility in Greensboro

The awardee list

Here’s a look at each Hub and priorities:

1. Northeast Microelectronics Coalition (NEMC) Hub

Awardee (Hub Lead): The Massachusetts Technology Collaborative (MassTech)
Hub Lead State: Massachusetts
FY23 Award:  $19.7 M
90 Hub Members

2. Silicon Crossroads Microelectronics Commons (SCMC) Hub

Awardee: The Applied Research Institute (ARI)
Hub Lead State: Indiana
FY23 Award:  $32.9 M
130 Hub Members

3. California Defense Ready Electronics and Microdevices Superhub (California DREAMS) Hub

Awardee:  The University of Southern California (USC)
Hub Lead State: California
FY23 Award:  $26.9 M
16 Hub members

4. Commercial Leap Ahead for Wide Bandgap Semiconductors (CLAWS) Hub

Awardee:  North Carolina State University (NCSU)
Hub Lead State: North Carolina
FY23 Award:  $39.4 M
7 Hub members

5. Southwest Advanced Prototyping (SWAP) Hub

Awardee:  Arizona Board of Regents on behalf of Arizona State University
Hub Lead State: Arizona
FY23 Award:  $39.8 M
27 Hub members

6. Midwest Microelectronics Consortium (MMEC) Hub

Awardee:  MMEC
Hub Lead State: Ohio
FY23 Award:  $24.3 M
65 Hub members

7. Northeast Regional Defense Technology Hub (NORDTECH)

Awardee :  The Research Foundation for the State University of New York (SUNY)
Hub Lead State: New York
FY23 Award:  $40.0 M
51 Hub members

8. California-Pacific-Northwest AI Hardware Hub (Northwest-AI Hub)

Awardee:  The Board of Trustees of the Leland Stanford Junior University
Hub Lead State: California
FY23 Award:  $15.3 M
44 Hub members