Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger said Thursday that President Biden is pushing him to get new federally funded chip factories up and running faster, amid reports of delays and creeping costs in Washington’s flagship initiative to revive U.S. high-tech manufacturing.

“He wants it bigger, he wants it sooner,” Gelsinger said at The Washington Post’s Futurist Summit about Biden’s wishes for the Intel projects. He added that Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo “has sales targets for me now.”

The Biden administration announced Wednesday that Intel will receive $8.5 billion in grants and $11 billion in loans to recapture some of its computer chip production from abroad, making the Santa Clara, California-based chip titan the biggest gainer from the American market. $52 billion wagered on an American industrial renaissance.

Semiconductors – colloquially called ‘chips’ – are the brains in all computing devices, from smartphones to supercomputers to the operating systems for smart rockets. U.S. officials are alarmed that the industry’s center of gravity has shifted to China and other lower-cost countries in East Asia, calling the development a security risk for the United States. Biden has promised to bring back the industry.

Gelsinger called the package of subsidies and other support for U.S. chipmakers “the most important piece of industrial policy since World War II,” and said the program was necessary if the United States wants to compete with international rivals.

Gelsinger said the timeline for Intel’s new Ohio factory is still “within reach” after a report from the company to Ohio officials this month showed that the date the factory would become operational had been pushed back from an early estimate from 2025 to 2027 or later. .

“We’ve had a pretty tough economic cycle and the semiconductor industry has been hit a little harder,” he said. “If you go to Columbus … we have thousands of construction workers on site today.”

Gelsinger said he has had “a lot of conversations” with OpenAI CEO Sam Altman about building the supply chain for AI chips and expects to produce them at Intel’s Ohio factory.

“Sam, I hope that many of these algorithms will run on the chips that we produce in what we announced yesterday,” Gelsinger said.

Anna Makanju, OpenAI’s vice president of global affairs, said at Thursday’s summit that the company is considering a number of potential chip investment partners after news broke that Altman was in talks with investors in the United Arab Emirates.

“We are talking to a lot of people to try to understand who is in a position to make these types of investments,” Makanju said. “But of course we will always remain close to the US government on this matter.”

She said that even with the Biden administration’s investments in the sector, there could still be an ongoing global chip shortage as companies around the world strive to power advanced AI systems.

“Demand is really going to skyrocket,” she said, “and it’s not clear whether supply will be able to meet it.”

After decades of laissez-faire economic policies, the idea of ​​a strong national industrial policy led by Washington has come back into fashion as US officials debate how to halt China’s technological rise. Chips have been a prime example in an industry where allowing market forces to operate unchecked has not produced the results the U.S. government is seeking. U.S. chip makers, including Intel, have largely moved their production abroad, driven by profit maximization.

Stefanie Tompkins, director of the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), said at the summit that there is a need for government-led technology investments in areas where profitability for the private sector cannot be guaranteed.

“In the commercial world, a lot of money is obviously spent on technology development, but this will always be primarily in line with a business motive. You have to be able to make money,” she says. “The kinds of things that DARPA and other government organizations often think about, we often think about the problems that don’t align with that area.”

Gelsinger also said he believed government leadership was needed to provide the right financial incentives for U.S. industry.

“None of our policies in the US encourage long-term capital investment,” he said. “We’re on quarterly profit cycles … if you’re just measured on a 90-day shot clock, that’s what you get.”

He added: “I believe these long industrial capital investment cycles need a fundamental rethink, and we need to ensure that our financial and industrial policies support R&D. And it’s clear that Intel stumbled. We had multiple generations of non-technical leaders who didn’t have this vision of manufacturing and product innovation and what was needed.

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