Federal Relations

Major Science Legislation Moving Through Congress

The U.S. House and Senate are working to pass major science and innovation legislation that would authorize significant funding increases and create new research programs and research center opportunities through federal science agencies such as the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science, the Department of Defense (DOD), and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), among others.  The Senate passed the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act (USICA) in June of 2021 and the House passed corresponding legislation, entitled the America COMPETES Act, on February 4th, 2022.

The two chambers are now expected to go to conference on their respective bills and are highly motivated to complete a final package in the coming months.  The bills would support new research opportunities in areas such as semiconductor technologies and supply chain security, microelectronics, quantum, AI, robotics, advanced communications, and more.  The bills would also support funding opportunities through NSF, DOD, and the Department of Commerce to translate research discoveries into real-world applications and promote regional economic development.  In addition to new research opportunities, both bills would enact new research security provisions, such as reporting requirements on foreign gifts to faculty and staff outside of their university duties.

Below are some additional details, including links to summaries of each legislative package as well as a snapshot, prepared by the UMD Office of Government Relations, of some of the major new research center opportunities and new research programs of interest to the university in one or both of the bills.  These provisions could be modified or eliminated in conference negotiations.  UMD’s Office of Government Relations will continue to advocate for provisions of interest to our campus and release a comprehensive summary once a final bill is passed into law.

Additional resources:

Snapshot of major new research opportunities in each bill:

Both the America COMPETES Act and USICA provide actual appropriations for the following programs passed as part of the CHIPS Act, a bill to incentivize semiconductor manufacturing in the United States:

CHIPS for America Fund: provides $50 billion over 5 years to incentivize investment in facilities and equipment in the United States for semiconductor fabrication, assembly, testing, advanced packaging, or research and development.  (Since R&D is an authorized use of these funds, universities may have an opportunity to partner with manufacturing facilities on modernization efforts).

CHIPS for America Defense Fund: provides funds for DOD to create a National Network for Microelectronics Research and Development to accelerate the transition of new technologies to domestic microelectronics manufacturers; $400 million appropriated per year for 5 years.

CHIPS for American International Technology Security and Innovation Fund: provides funds for the Department of State to provide for international information and communications technology security and semiconductor supply chain activities, including to support the development and adoption of secure and trusted telecommunications technologies, secure semiconductors, secure semiconductor supply chains, and other emerging technologies; $100 million appropriated per year for 5 years.

  • How this will be funded: The Secretary of State, in consultation with the Secretary of Commerce, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of Homeland Security, the Secretary of the Treasury, the Secretary of Energy, and the Director of National Intelligence is authorized to establish a common funding mechanism, in coordination with foreign partners, that uses amounts from the fund to support the development and adoption of secure semiconductors and secure semiconductors supply chains.  Funds may also be used to support research and development collaborations among partner countries participating in the common funding mechanism. 

National Semiconductor Technology Center: the Secretary of Commerce, in collaboration with the Secretary of Defense, shall establish a National Semiconductor Technology Center to conduct research and prototyping of advanced semiconductor technology to strengthen the economic competitiveness and security of the domestic supply chain.  Such center shall be operated as a public private-sector consortium with participation from the private sector, DOE, and NSF. Focuses include: semiconductor advanced test, assembly, and packaging capability in the domestic ecosystem; materials characterization, instrumentation and testing for next generation microelectronics; virtualization and automation of maintenance of semiconductor machinery; and metrology for security and supply chain verification.  $2 billion appropriated in FY2022, available until expended.  

National advanced packaging manufacturing program: the Secretary of Commerce shall establish a National Advanced Packaging Manufacturing Program led by the Director of the NIST, in coordination with the National Semiconductor Technology Center, to strengthen semiconductor advanced test, assembly, and packaging capability in the domestic ecosystem.  This program shall also coordinate with the new Manufacturing USA Institute(s) focused on semiconductors.  $2.5 billion appropriated in FY2022, available until expended.  

Microelectronics research at NIST: NIST shall carry out a microelectronics research program to enable advances and breakthroughs in measurement science, standards, material characterization, instrumentation, testing, and manufacturing capabilities that will accelerate the underlying research and development for metrology of next generation microelectronics and ensure the competitiveness and leadership of the United States within this sector. $500 million appropriated in FY2022 for both this program and the new Manufacturing USA Institutes (more on that below). Available until expended with discretion provided to NIST to determine how much is allocated to each program.

Creation of new manufacturing USA institutes: the Director of NIST may establish one or more Manufacturing USA institutes focused on semiconductor manufacturing. Such institutes may emphasize the following: research to support the virtualization and automation of maintenance of semiconductor machinery; development of new advanced test, assembly, and packaging capabilities; developing and deploying educational and skills training curricula needed to support the industry sector and ensure the United States can build and maintain a trusted and predictable talent pipeline.

The following list includes new research centers and programs authorized in each bill that would be subject to annual appropriations from Congress:

New NSF Technology Directorate: NSF shall create a new directorate to accelerate the translation of discoveries from NSF research in key technology areas.  The Senate bill identifies those key technology areas, that would then be updated annually by NSF.  These include quantum, AI, high performance computing, robotics, advanced communications, data storage, biotech, materials, energy storage, and disaster mitigation.  The Senate bill authorizes $1.6 billion for the new directorate in the first year, growing to $8.4 billion per year over 5 years.  The House bill sets broad categories for the new directorate to address including climate change, critical technologies, cybersecurity, national security, stem education, and social inequality. The House authorizes $1.4 billion in the first year, growing to $3.4 billion per year over 5 years.

NSF Technology Research Institutes:  the new NSF Technology Directorate may award grants and cooperative agreements to universities or consortia of universities to conduct research and advance innovation of “key technology areas”, identified by the Director of NSF.  These institutes may manage user-facilities and data repositories relevant to key technology areas. The Senate bill authorizes $9.5 billion over 5 years for these institutes.  No specific authorized funding called out in the House bill.

NSF Test Beds: allows the new NSF Technology Directorate to establish and operate test beds, which may include fabrication facilities and cyberinfrastructure to advance the development, operation, integration, deployment, and, as appropriate, demonstration of new technologies in the key technology focus areas, which may include hardware or software; $2.9 billion authorized over 5 years.  (No similar provision in the House America COMPETES Act).

DOE Microelectronics Science Research Centers: The DOE Office of Science shall establish up to four Microelectronics Science Research Centers to conduct mission-driven research to address foundational challenges in the design, development, characterization, prototyping, demonstration, and fabrication of microelectronics and to facilitate the translation of research results to industry.  DOE National Labs, universities, and industry can apply, or a consortium of these entities. Centers can receive up to $5 million a year for 5 years, with extensions. (No similar provision in the Senate USICA bill).

Department of Commerce Regional Innovation Hubs: authorizes a program at the Department of Commerce to create regional technology and innovation hubs across the country. Applicants will include consortia of local and state governments, universities, industry, labor organizations, and other groups to promote innovation and shared prosperity in a region. Grants and cooperative agreements offered under the program can either be used to create regional innovation strategies or to implement those strategies. Implementation funds can be used for workforce, entrepreneurship, and technology development, as well as infrastructure-related activities to develop regions into innovation economies. This program will also address access to housing, transportation, high-speed internet, and quality STEM education in review of proposals for new regional technology and innovation hubs. $7 bil authorized over 5 years in the America COMPETES Act and $10 billion authorized over 5 years in USICA.  Awards may not exceed $150 million.

DOE Regional Innovation Hubs: authorizes a program at DOE to provide funding to consortia consisting of local and state energy offices, economic development organizations, and other relevant entities, such as universities, to develop and execute plans to link economic development with clean energy innovation activities. While the DOC program will have broad remit to bolster support for all types of innovation industries, this program will focus on boosting regional clean energy innovation capacity to meet our changing energy needs.  Awards may not exceed $10 million over 5 years.  (No similar provision in the Senate USICA bill).

Computing Enclave Pilot Program: NSF, NIST, and DOE shall launch a pilot program to award grants to three universities, geographically dispersed across the country, to ensure the security of federally-supported research data and assist universities and their researchers with compliance efforts.  The universities chosen must be designated as a doctorate-granting university with a very high level of research activity, and with a history of working with secure information for the development, installation, maintenance, or sustainment of secure computing enclaves.  $38 million authorized over 3 years for all 3 centers. (No similar provision in the Senate USICA bill).