Why the Semiconductor Industry Must Stay Up and Running as We Confront COVID-19

Wednesday, Mar 25, 2020, 11:30am

by John Neuffer, President and CEO

In response to the global COVID-19 pandemic, the semiconductor industry is focused on ensuring the health and safety of its workers and the continuity of its research, design, and manufacturing operations. This is critically important in our battle against this terrible virus because semiconductors support vital parts of the global economy, critical infrastructure, and national security. And they are at the heart of many breakthrough technologies being used to combat this global health crisis.

As the COVID-19 outbreak continues, government officials in the U.S. and around the world are imposing business closures, shelter-in-place orders, and other restrictions in an attempt to slow the spread of the virus. As officials consider these important public health measures, it is critical that essential businesses and infrastructure, including the semiconductor industry, be allowed to continue operations.

SIA today released a short white paper titled Global Stakeholder Primer: The Semiconductor Industry & COVID-19. This document outlines why the semiconductor sector is an essential industry, the industry’s unique cleanroom operating conditions that minimize the risk of potential virus transmissions, and the extraordinary measures many semiconductor companies around the world are taking to guard against COVID-19 while ensuring continuity of essential operations.

To help guide government decisions domestically, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) last week issued an advisory to state and local governments about designating essential infrastructure workers during COVID-19 response efforts. The advisory embraces SIA’s recommendation, outlined in a letter sent to President Trump last week, that the semiconductor industry be designated an essential sector that should maintain operations even when state and local governments impose various restrictions. SIA is working with DHS to further refine its guidance to make clear to state and local governments the critical role our industry plays in keeping America’s infrastructure functioning and our economy moving. [Update: On March 28, DHS’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency (CISA) revised its guidance to include the broader semiconductor industry and its supply chain, including research and development, manufacturing, and support services for communications and IT services.]

Semiconductors underpin vital sectors of the economy, including health care and medical devices, telecommunications, energy, finance, transportation, agriculture, and manufacturing. They are the key components of the technologies that control critical infrastructure, such as water systems, the energy grid, and communication networks. They also underpin the IT systems that enable remote work and access to essential services across every domain, including medicine, finance, education, government, food distribution, and more. Ensuring the continuity of semiconductor and related supply chains is necessary to support the even greater range of services that will be digitized in the coming weeks and months.

Additionally, since the semiconductor supply chain is highly globalized, semiconductor shortages created by operating restrictions in one region cannot be readily made up by production in other regions.

For these reasons, we call on all governments around the world at all levels – central, states/provinces, and localities – to prioritize continued operations for their domestic semiconductor companies and their suppliers by defining the semiconductor industry and its supply chain as “essential infrastructure” and/or “essential business.”

We look forward to continuing to work with government leaders to defeat COVID-19 and to ensure the semiconductor industry remains a valuable contributor in ensuring continuity of critical infrastructure and operations during this global health crisis.