“There is a lack of precision in thought,” said Robert D. Atkinson, the president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, a research group that supports U.S. government funding for essential technologies including computer chips. (The group gets funding from telecom and tech companies, including the U.S. computer chip giant Intel.)
Atkinson told me that he backed the proposals winding through Congress for government help for tech research and development, and for taxpayer subsidies for U.S. chip factories. But he also said that there was a risk of U.S. policy treating all domestic technology manufacturing as equally important. “Maybe it would be nice if we made more solar panels, but I don’t think that’s strategic,” he said.
Atkinson and people whom I spoke to in the computer chip industry say that there are important ways that computer chips are not like iPhones, and that it would be helpful if more were made on U.S. soil. About 12 percent of all chips are manufactured in the U.S.
In their view, manufacturing expertise is tied to tech innovation, and it’s important for America to keep sharp skills in computer chip manufacturing.“
We are one of the three nations on Earth that can do this,” Al Thompson, the head of U.S. government affairs for Intel, told me. “We don’t want to lose this capacity.” (South Korea and Taiwan are the other two countries with top-level chip manufacturing expertise.)