Silicon Valley giant announces new facility

Vice President Kamala Harris' visit to Silicon Valley on Monday comes as a tech giant, Applied Materials, announced it plans to build a $4 billion semiconductor research and development facility in Sunnyvale.

The Applied Materials Equipment and Process Innovation and Commercialization Center would be 180,000 square feet, the equivalent of three football fields. The project will create 2,000 engineering jobs and be online by 2026, company representatives said.

The company's CEO also said the company plans to apply for federal grants to help build the facility. Congress passed the CHIPS and Science Act last year, with bipartisan support, to incentivize the development and production of semiconductor technology in the U.S.

"Semiconducters are the lifeblood of the digital economy," said Heidi Livingston Eisips, a San Jose State University adjunct professor in the business and engineering departments. "They are in every modern device we use."

Computers, cars, smart devices and appliances rely on semiconductors to function. During the pandemic, American consumers and the government realized how the US had become reliant on other countries for their manufacturing.

"The supply chain challenges underscore how important chip-making is," Eisips said. "Before that, people were really unaware until they felt that pain."'

Harris hosted a round-table discussion with leaders of the semiconductor industry at Applied Materials campus in Sunnyvale. Employees attending the event hoped to hear her talk about the federal government's role in supporting the industry.

"The CHIPS Act is crucial to bring the focus back to Silicon Valley," said Matt Dias, an Applied Materials employee.

Eisips said she believes Applied Materials' new facility will help the South Bay economy and the Bay Area's universities, which would partner with the lab to do chip research and development.

There is a sense in Silicon Valley that the U.S. needs to catch up on the global race to create the next generation of smaller, faster chips.

"This is the first time in 50 years we're seeing a real pressure, so we really have to push hard on the research," she said.