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Baker-Polito Administration Awards $1 Million to WPI for New Semiconductor Security Research Center
R&D Grant from the Innovation Institute at MassTech Funds Unique Test System and Workforce Training to Bolster Security in Critical Hardware Supply Chain
WORCESTER, MASS. – Today, the Baker-Polito Administration announced a new $999,963 grant from the Collaborative Research and Development Matching Grant program to support a new research center at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) focused on the security of semiconductors and hardware critical to key innovation industries. The new facility will enable a critical testbed for WPI and partners to work with private industry, utilizing new testing equipment that will be the first of its kind in the Northeast, plus will develop training programs to support the workforce needs of technology companies in the region.
Lt. Governor Karyn Polito announced the new grant from the Commonwealth through the program managed by the Innovation Institute at the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative (MassTech), which will co-invest in a two-year, $1,999,326 project to develop the new center. In addition to leadership from WPI, the facility is supported by public and private sector research partners from across Massachusetts and the U.S., including:
- Leading academic research institutions: Northeastern, UMass Amherst, and Quinsigamond Community College (QCC);
- Five industry-leading companies: Analog Devices, Dell, General Dynamics, Google, Intrinsix; and
- A Federally Funded R&D Center: MITRE.
“This project highlights the leadership that Massachusetts can play on issues critical to our innovation economy,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “We congratulate WPI, as well as their public and private sector partners, for developing a project that will provide critical testing capability and a talent pipeline that will help us address a supply chain that is heavily concentrated overseas and prone to disruption.”
“This grant program is an important way for us to invest in infrastructure statewide which can be utilized by established companies and growing startups to help advance their cutting-edge products,” said Lt. Governor Karyn Polito. “Semiconductors are critical components for technologies and computer systems that are critical to energy, transportation, communication, and healthcare sectors. WPI has been a strong partner in supporting our innovation economy, and this new center, with its focus on manufacturing and cybersecurity, will help bolster our ‘Made in Mass’ products and increase their competitiveness globally.”
As part of this effort, WPI will collaborate with QCC in Worcester to develop workforce training elements of the project, building on WPI and QCC’s partnership on projects focused on training in the photonics sector.
“This new center will more closely connect academic research with industry leaders, a strategy that will help spur collaborations to drive meaningful security innovations for a critical sector, and WPI is proud to be a hub for this important work,” said Laurie Leshin, President of WPI. “The new center will also answer a need for cutting-edge facilities to train the future workforce while promoting equity and access to STEM education and careers – a diversity that can make the world better for everyone. WPI is focused on helping to solve important societal problems through purpose-driven research; we also know that the future of work and the future of education are directly linked, and that aligning interests and partnering in new ways is essential. Such collaborations will allow us to work together to advance innovation, industry, and individuals by centering on the real-world skills needed by today’s companies and their employees. This new research center will drive research, training, and collaborations that will be critical for our security, for certain, but also for competitiveness and economic growth.”
The state grant will fund the purchase of a new, high-sensitivity, high-resolution semiconductor failure analysis system, the first instrument of its kind in the Northeast. The new R&D tool and related workforce programs will address the strong security needs in the semiconductor industry, enabling integrated chip debugging & diagnosis, and failure analysis. These are critical tasks for the manufacture of secure semiconductors, which are key components to electronic products.
Building these capabilities in the U.S. will help address increasing market demand for secure semiconductors and to decrease impacts from non-domestic sources, including supply chain interruptions, defective chips, and counterfeiting. The Semiconductor Industry Association estimated that counterfeit chips cost U.S.-based companies more than “$7.5 billion per year, which translates into nearly 11,000 lost American jobs.”
“Central Massachusetts has a long history when it comes to manufacturing, through the leadership of institutions like WPI, QCC, and our private sector partners,” said Housing and Economic Development Secretary Mike Kennealy. “As the last few years have shown us, a stable supply chain is critical to the success of our technology firms, and by investing in this expanded R&D center, we can strengthen and secure our homegrown production, leading to expanded manufacturing and more jobs.”
The new WPI center will offer private industry a secure, real-world testbed for product development, as well as a hub to engage with faculty and students on pilot projects. The involvement of key partners from across the region will also help promote the Commonwealth’s leadership in this critical security area and will lead to more rapid implementation of hardware security measures.
“WPI has a stellar track record around partnerships with the private sector, building bridges with cutting-edge firms based here in Massachusetts, and with R&D leaders from around the world,” said Carolyn Kirk, Executive Director of the MassTech Collaborative. “The list of partners they’ve brought to this project, including leading research centers and Fortune 500 companies, highlights the importance of this project and why it made sense for the Commonwealth to invest in it.”
“MITRE is excited to partner with WPI, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and project partners to advance semiconductor security,” said Douglas Robbins, vice president, engineering and prototyping, MITRE Labs. “Addressing national challenges like the security of critical semiconductor supply chains requires strong collaboration between industry, academia, and government, and we look forward to working together on this initiative to strengthen our nation’s security, resiliency, and economic health.”
To date, the Collaborative R&D Matching Grant program has awarded more than $28 million, leveraging more than $50 million in matching contributions from outside partners. This includes 10 projects that have supported innovative industry/academic collaborations and investment in novel R&D infrastructure to bolster the Massachusetts tech and innovation economy statewide.
Emerging industries supported through the grant program include cloud computing, marine robotics, printed electronics, cybersecurity/data science, and nanomaterials/smart sensors. These investments have led to the formation of 79 new industry partnerships and 54 intellectual property and licensing agreements in the past two years.
Organizations interested in applying to the Collaborative R&D Matching Grant learn more at https://masstech.org/collaborative-research-matching-grant-program-solicitation.
About the Innovation Institute at the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative
The MassTech Collaborative is a quasi-public economic development agency that strengthens the competitiveness of the tech and innovation economy by driving strategic investments, partnerships, and insights that harness the talent of Massachusetts. The Innovation Institute is the division of MassTech that advances its core mission of innovation and cluster growth across the Commonwealth. Created in 2003, the Innovation Institute intervenes in the economy in the following four ways:
- Conducts research and analysis that improves the state’s understandings of unmet needs and opportunities in the innovation economy;
- Serves as convener and key strategic broker on the landscape;
- Manages high-value projects on behalf of the Commonwealth; and
- Makes strategic investments in support of innovation-based economic development.
For more information, visit https://innovation.masstech.org/.
Brian Noyes, MassTech