From cars to phones to computers, there aren’t many things these days that don’t use microelectronics, and the United States is in dire need them. Currently, over 85% of microelectronics used in the United States are fabricated outside the U.S. The Department of Defense recognizes the risk of possible security vulnerabilities and has made it a top priority to expand our domestic microelectronics infrastructure through the Microelectronics Commons prototype.

Proposed by the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense, Research & Engineering, the Microelectronics Commons prototype project will close the gap between microelectronics innovation and market adoption, more frequently known as the “Valley of Death”. To bridge the gap between ideation and fabrication, a network of domestic prototyping facilities is needed to demonstrate at-scale commercial viability of microelectronics materials, processes, devices, and architectural designs.

The Microelectronics Commons prototype project will solve for the lack of domestically made microelectronics by inaugurating a national network of prototyping innovation hubs. These innovation hubs will focus on six critical technology areas – Secure Edge/IoT Computing, Quantum Technology, 5G/6G Technology, Electromagnetic Warfare, Artificial Intelligence Hardware, and Commercial Leap-Ahead Technologies, and be distributed regionally across the U.S. The Microelectronics Commons is a first-of-its-kind initiative that allows industry to guide the DoD’s efforts in advancing these critical technology areas.

The core components of the Microelectronics Commons project are that each technology hub is sustainable, reduces barrier to innovation, enhances domestic microelectronic infrastructure, and fosters a pipeline of innovative ideas. It is through these change-driven objectives that the United States’ microelectronics manufacturing gap can be solved for, greatly reducing possible security vulnerabilities to our nation’s Achilles heel.

Funding for the Microelectronics Commons prototype and subsequent technology hubs is appropriated through the CHIPS for America Defense Fund, part of the CHIPS Act that was passed by Congress and signed by President Joe Biden on August 9, 2022. After initial funding, the Microelectronics Commons technology hubs will become self-sustaining innovation nodes in their core technology areas while leveraging regional market strengths to address DoD and commercial needs. The Microelectronics Commons Other Transaction Authority (OTA) prototype project is being released through the Strategic & Spectrum Missions Advanced Resilient Trusted Systems (S2MARTS) OTA vehicle.