Rochester Institute of Technology has been named to the U.S.-Japan University Partnership for Workforce Advancement and Research & Development in Semiconductors for the Future.
It is one of six U.S. universities in the UPWARDS for the Future alliance, which aims to improve competitiveness in computer chip design, development, and manufacturing.
The partnership was announced by Micron Technology Inc. and the National Science Foundation. A memorandum of understanding was signed this weekend at the 2023 G7 Summit in Hiroshima, Japan.
The venture expects to expand engineering education and research to underrepresented students and faculty, officials say, pairing universities for shared learning across the two countries. It is expected to impact roughly 5,000 students annually.
Micron will fund the initiative and the founding institutions will contribute in-kind donations over a five-year period. The NSF also will invest over the same time period to implement different elements of UPWARDS for the Future. Total contributions are expected to exceed $60 million.
Each U.S. university will participate in student exchanges, provide summer research opportunities and fellowship programs, and provide faculty support.
“As a leading producer of STEM graduates, Rochester Institute of Technology recognizes the crucial role that semiconductors and related technologies play in driving innovation and economic growth,” says RIT president David Munson. “More importantly, we are committed to fostering diversity and removing educational barriers.
“We look forward to partnering with our academic colleagues in Japan and in the United States, as well as Micron, through the UPWARDS for the Future initiative to advance semiconductor research and workforce development.”
RIT, which runs one of the first microelectronic engineering degree programs in the nation, has more than 1,500 alumni working in the semiconductor arena. Through UPWARDS for the Future, RIT will participate in curriculum development, student and faculty exchanges, research projects, and Micron’s Women in Semiconductors program, officials say.
The Kate Gleason College of Engineering, the College of Engineering Technology and RIT Certified will be key contributors to the partnership.
“This is an exciting opportunity for our students and faculty,” says Doreen Edwards, Kate Gleason College of Engineering dean. “Our college has been educating microelectronic engineers for the semiconductor industry for over 40 years.
Here are some ways that RIT will contribute to the UPWARDS for the Future partnership:
■ It will train future and current engineers for jobs from research and design to semiconductor manufacturing and electronic packaging.
■ Faculty and graduate students enrolled in RIT’s doctoral programs in microsystems engineering and electrical and computer engineering will collaborate on cutting-edge research as part of the UPWARDS partnerships.
■ RIT’s cleanroom, the Semiconductor and Microsystems Fabrication Lab, is undergoing an expansion in the summer.
■ Workforce development programs at the university and at corporate-partner sites will help build the skilled workforce needed by the semiconductor and electronic packaging industry.
The founding universities, including RIT, are known for their high-quality education and proven commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Each one has focused on closing the gender equity gap in STEM, which is crucial to building the industry’s workforce of the future, Micron officials say.
Last October, Micron—a company headquartered in Boise, Idaho, with more than $30 billion in annual revenues—announced it would invest $100 billion over the next two decades to build a semiconductor fabrication center in Onondaga County near Syracuse. The proximity to talent, research and development labs, businesses and universities played a key role in its decision.
Other participating universities in UPWARDS for the Future include Hiroshima University, Kyushu University, Nagoya University, Tohoku University, and Tokyo Institute of Technology, from Japan. In addition to RIT, Boise State University, Purdue University, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, University of Washington and Virginia Tech are part of the U.S. contingent.
“The UPWARDS for the Future Program will attract a whole new generation of diverse engineers who will be well prepared to contribute to this important global industry,” Edwards says.
Smriti Jacob is Rochester Beacon managing editor. The Beacon welcomes comments and letters from readers who adhere to our comment policy including use of their full, real name. Submissions to the Letters page should be sent to [email protected].