January 11, 2012
By: Mark Weiner
Source: The Syracuse Post-Standard
Washington -- A California defense contractor wants to develop a nanochip manufacturing plant at Electronics Park in Salina, creating about 200 high-tech jobs that would be the first of their kind in New York.
APIC Corp., a Los Angeles company that has pioneered the integration of photonics technology with electronics, says it would like to open the chip fabrication plant by the end of the year.
APIC, partnering with the Department of Defense and SUNY Albany’s College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering, would make a new generation of chips for the U.S. Navy to use in the avionics for ships, submarines and planes.
If all goes as planned, it would be the second chip manufacturing plant to open in New York state, which is investing more than $1 billion to become a global center of nanotechnology research.
U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, who is trying to broker a deal among all of the partners, said Tuesday that the plant fits in perfectly with the budding nanotechnology industry across Upstate New York.
Schumer, D-N.Y., said he envisions Central New York as a manufacturing hub for nanochips, supporting cutting-edge research aleady underway in Albany and other locations across the state.
“Securing a new high-tech chip manufacturing operation could be a game-changer for Syracuse," Schumer said, "and would bring a brand new industry home to Central New York."
Schumer, the third highest-ranking member of the U.S. Senate, plans to send a letter today to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, asking for his support of the project.
APIC has partnered since 2002 with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the U.S. Navy to develop a new generation of compound semiconductor chips that use light, instead of wired circuitry, to communicate.
The new chips are lighter, use less power, take up less space and don’t have to be updated every few years like existing microchips, said Raj Dutt, APIC’s chairman and chief executive officer.
“A decade later, this technology has major implications both in the military and for commercial work in saving lots of size, weight and power,” Dutt said in an interview Tuesday. “It’s now getting ready for production.”
He said the new chips have the potential to save the Navy billions of dollars over the long term.
APIC, working with its federal partners, says the NEW-HIP (Network Enabled by Wavelength Division Multiplexed Highly Integrated Photonics) program will shrink the electronic computer components and extensive wiring of a ship or an airplane down to a small chip wafer.
The new technology, using photonics, will end the need for wires and other hardware components, Dutt said.
The NEW-HIP program was initially developed by chip-maker Intel Corp. and the National Security Agency. It is now being led by APIC. The company created the prototype for NEW-HIP at its photonics foundry in Honolulu, Hawaii, but a new plant would be needed for full-scale production.
Dutt said his privately-held company has not discussed financial incentives for the plant with New York or Onondaga County officials. He said the first step in the process is a commitment from the partners.
“The Navy and DARPA want to see if we could transition to a production facility,” Dutt said. “As we move into manufacturing over the next 12 to 18 months, that facility would have to be ready.”
Schumer said APIC needs a financial commitment from the Department of Defense to move forward with the project.
The company would like the SUNY Albany College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering to help finance some of the costs of the manufacturing plant, along with the Navy.
The state has already committed $28 million in grants for Electronics Park to establish the Nanotechnology Innovation and Commercialization Excellerator.
Of that total, $16 million has been set aside for the CenterState Corporation for Economic Opportunity, which manages the state-owned Electronics Park complex, to renovate a former General Electric laboratory, which closed in 1996.
The lab once produced a series of technological breakthroughs that contributed to about 600 patents used in the development of television tubes, pacemakers, intercontinental ballistic missiles and other electronic devices.
Schumer said the 100,000-square foot building would be the ideal home for APIC’s manufacturing plant.
“Microchip manufacturing is set to explode across Upstate New York, and this is Syracuse’s opportunity to get in the game and establish a new, job-creating high-tech industry right in Central New York," Schumer said.
He added, "All of the pieces are in place – a new facility, a manufacturer that needs a home, and a world-class partner in CNSE (the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering). All we need is for the Navy to step up to the plate and partner with CNSE to bring these jobs and this work to Syracuse and Upstate."
State planners view Electronics Park in Salina as a future manufacturing hub that would place Central New York at the forefront of applying nanotechnology to the real world. Nanotechnology is the science of manipulating matter at the atomic level to create materials that are lighter and stronger.
So far, Lockheed Martin – the major tenant at Electronics Park -- and Group4 Labs Inc., of Fremont, Calif., have signed on as the first two tenants of the nanotech building. Each would initially have fewer than 20 employees.
APIC Corp. would be the largest tenant and only chip manufacturer in the building. APIC has about 60 employees scattered in offices and plants in California, Hawaii, Florida, Washington, D.C., and Boston.
In May, the company launched a $10 million partnership with SUNY Albany’s College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering to develop and commercialize green computer chip technology.
New York’s first chip manufacturing plant began production last week in Malta, Saratoga County. The new $4.6 billion computer chip plant operated by GlobalFoundries employs 1,100 people and is expected to reach full production in 2013. Its first customer is IBM, which wants the chips to speed up graphics and network functions.
State economic development officials have been trying to establish hubs for nanotechnology research and manufacturing across New York.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said last year the state would spend $400 million to match $4 billion in private nanotechnology investment in New York from IBM, Samsung and other global partners.