Darpa Plans a Major Remake of U.S. Electronics

The defense department’s research wing is pouring $1.5 billion into projects that could radically alter how electronics are made

The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is launching a huge expansion of its Electronics Resurgence Initiative, boosting the program to US $1.5 billion over five years. And while some of the research efforts will be just what you’ve come to expect from the agency that brought you disposable drones, self-driving cars, and cameras that can see around corners, a lot of this new money is going toward ideas that could fundamentally change how chips are designed.

If it all works out, the effect could be to make small groups of engineers capable of feats that would take 100 engineers to achieve today. “We envision a much more specialized, secure, and heavily automated electronics community, which will change how everything is done in electronics, top to bottom,” says Darpa’s ERI director Bill Chappell. And that means your job is probably going to feel the effects.

The agency will kick off the initiative and reveal some of the winning proposals at a summit in San Francisco from 23 to 25 July, headlined by bigwigs like Nvidia’s Bill Dally and Intel’s Mike Mayberry. Chappell spoke to IEEE Spectrum ahead of the conference about the initiative’s aims and potential impacts.

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