Federal Research:

Lessons Learned From SEMATECH

RCED-92-283: Published: Sep 28, 1992. Publicly Released: Oct 26, 1992.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO assessed the lessons learned in the first 5 years of the government's participation in the Semiconductor Manufacturing Technology Consortium (SEMATECH) that might be applied to other similar government-industry research and development (R&D) consortia intended to improve the competitive position of U.S. manufacturers.

GAO found that: (1) a government-industry R&D consortium on manufacturing technology can help improve a U.S. industry's technological position while protecting the government's interest that the consortium be managed well and public funds spent appropriately; (2) SEMATECH has worked well because its member companies have led the consortium and members' senior executives have been actively involved in overseeing its activities; (3) equipment suppliers of SEMATECH are the primary beneficiaries of its R&D program through equipment improvement and development contracts and efforts to improve long-term working relationships between semiconductor manufacturers and their key suppliers; (4) the consortium is improving the U.S. industry's efficiency by developing industrywide standards and practices and leveraging R&D resources; (5) SEMATECH might have improved its initial manufacturing R&D program by more thoroughly assessing the declining market share of U.S. semiconductor equipment and material suppliers; and (6) SEMATECH might have improved its initial manufacturing R&D program by more realistically aligning its overall mission with the funds available to accomplish it.

Matters for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The National Competitiveness Act of 1993, which included a section authorizing federal funding for large-scale R&D consortia, was not passed by the 103rd Congress. No similar legislation has been introduced in the 104th Congress.

    Matter: In considering any future support for consortia, Congress may wish to consider each of the eight lessons learned that this report identifies. Among other things, Congress could consider requiring that, as a basis for receiving federal funds, the consortium: (1) prepare an operating plan with milestones for critical elements of initial projects; and (2) develop a program to improve members' working relationships with their key suppliers.

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: SEMATECH has announced that it will not seek matching federal funds after fiscal year 1997--10 years after Congress authorized federal support.

    Matter: Congress may wish to establish specific criteria for determining when federal support for SEMATECH--and any future consortia--should appropriately be terminated.


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