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SEMI Urges ‘Essential Business’ Designation of Chip Companies Worldwide to Help Ensure Continuous Operation

By Joe Pasetti

SEMI has urged government representatives around the U.S. and world to designate the semiconductor industry as an essential business so operations at companies across the chip supply chain can continue without interruption as the spread of COVID-19 continues. SEMI President and CEO Ajit Manocha assured the U.S. and global officials that SEMI members – the device makers and suppliers of chemicals, materials, components, design tools and equipment at the heart of chip manufacturing – “are employing all measures necessary to maintain the health and safety of their employees and local communities” to help contain the virus.

Manocha last week sent letters to the governors of 16 states and the chairs of the National Governors Association, U.S. Conference of Mayors, National League of Cities, and National Association of Counties requesting consideration of the semiconductor industry as an essential business if shelter-in-place or similar orders are issued to curb the spread of COVID-19. More than half of U.S. states have imposed shelter-in-place or stay-at-home orders in the past month. The designation would allow SEMI members to maintain continuous operations to ensure that manufacturing of components for critical infrastructure equipment, the defense industrial base, and other vital technological products and services is not jeopardized.

Semiconductors are the foundation of modern electronics and information technology and are critical in helping health workers effectively treat COVID-19 symptoms, Manocha told the officials. The devices also play a central role in containing its spread by enabling artificial intelligence (AI), data analytics, digital communications, telemedicine, robotics, remote health monitoring, telecommuting, online shopping and other digital services.

Manocha urged state and local officials to follow guidelines issued on March 19 by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) identifying “manufacturers and supply chain vendors that provide hardware and software, and information technology equipment (to include microelectronics and semiconductors) for critical infrastructure as ‘essential critical infrastructure workers.’” Most states issuing shelter-in-place or stay-at-home orders have followed the DHS guidelines and/or separately designated the semiconductor industry an essential business. Likewise, other nations have recognized the power of technology in effectively containing COVID-19 and similarly designated the semiconductor industry an essential business.

On March 27, SEMI, the Semiconductor Industry Associations in China, Europe, Japan, Korea, Singapore, Taiwan and the U.S., as well as several other trade associations in Asia issued a statement “calling on all governments to specify semiconductor industry operations as ‘essential infrastructure’ and/or ‘essential business’ to allow continuity in operations.”

The global semiconductor supply chain forms a highly intricate network consisting of research, design and manufacturing operations. Operating restrictions in one region can compromise production in others, leading to inefficiencies and breakdowns that cascade across the supply chain.

With semiconductors underpinning vital sectors of the global economy, the chip associations called on all global governments at all levels – central, states, provinces and localities – to help protect the uninterrupted operations of domestic semiconductor companies and their suppliers by applying the essential infrastructure or essential business designation.

Joe Pasetti is Vice President of Global Public Policy and Advocacy at SEMI.