Intel CEO Bob Swan congratulated President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris Monday morning and urged the country’s incoming leaders to invest in manufacturing and digital infrastructure as well as technology-related measures.
In an open letter to Biden published to Intel’s website Monday, Swan (pictured) said he knows Biden is “focused on uniting our nation” after a tumultuous and disruptive 2020 “to overcome the challenges posed by COVID-19, racial strife, a growing skills gap and increasing global competition.”
He drew a parallel between the disruptions of 2020 with those of 1968, when there were divisions over the Vietnam War and over race as the country underwent a recession and massive protests that he said shaped the political landscape. During that time of upheaval, he noted, Robert Noyce and Gordon Moore came together to found Intel, which “gave rise to many future technologies.”
Swan said Intel is capable of doing that again as the only “U.S.-based manufacturer of leading-edge semiconductors, with more than 50,000 employees across the country and innovation hubs in Oregon, Arizona, Texas, New Mexico and California.”
“We again stand at the ready to support the next generation of technological advancements,” he said.
There were four areas where Swan urged Biden and his incoming administration to focus on for policy efforts: investing in technology to solve COVID-related issues, increasing U.S. manufacturing, investing in digital infrastructure and developing a 21st-century workforce.
When it comes to technology’s impact to address challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic, Swan said that AI, high-performance computing and edge-to-cloud computing are “critical components in government collection and analysis of data, diagnostics, treatment and vaccine development.” He also urged Biden to increase investments in broadband connectivity, specifically for under-served communities and communities of color.
Referring to Biden’s “made in all of America” plan to revitalize U.S. manufacturing, Swan said it’s an area that is critical to U.S. innovation and leadership. He urged the federal government, under Biden’s leadership, to specifically invest in the domestic semiconductor industry, which is currently at a “significant disadvantage” because of rising costs and foreign government subsidies to manufacturers overseas. He pointed out how the U.S. only accounts for 12 percent of global manufacturing capacity with more than 80 percent happening in Asia.
“A national manufacturing strategy, including investment by the U.S. government in the domestic semiconductor industry, is critical to ensure American companies compete on a level playing field and lead the next generation of innovative technology,” Swan said.
The CEO said the incoming Biden administration should increase investments in digital infrastructure, which includes making cities and energy systems smarter and more efficiency. He said 5G networks in particular “will fuel efficiencies for businesses in all industries and enable more U.S. innovation. These kinds of infrastructure upgrades will also spur future technology development, he added.
Connected to that need, according to Swan, is an imperative to address the technology skills gap in the U.S. workforce by investing further in STEM programs, supporting immigration programs and making opportunities equitable for women and underrepresented minorities.
“Intel has enjoyed working closely with presidential administrations over the past 52 years on policies that help the United States lead the world in technological innovation,” Swan said in the in the letter’s closing. “I look forward to working together in a shared mission to tackle the many challenges facing our nation today as we prepare for an equitable and prosperous future.”
Dominic Daninger, vice president of engineering at Nor-Tech, a Burnsville, Minn.-based Intel high-performance computing system builder partner, said Swan made “excellent points” on where the federal government needs to focus under Biden’s leadership.
With many people losing their jobs due to the pandemic, Daninger said it will be important to support education programs for technical careers.
“This whole COVID thing hit the non-technically skilled people a lot harder,” he said.
While investing in domestic manufacturing will have broader benefits, including more jobs, it will especially be important from a national security perspective, Daninger said.
“It’s just way too dangerous to have all our semiconductor fabs in other countries,” he said. “It’s a dangerous way to structure our military, where they’re totally dependent on foreign sources.”
As for what kind of impact the incoming Biden administration will have on the broader tech industry, Daninger said Biden shows “more of a willingness to pay attention to science and technology.” But while he thinks Biden could make a positive impact, Daninger is ultimately taking a wait-and-see approach.
“He strikes me as a president that will rely a lot more on his team, so a lot of it depends on who he puts on his team,” Daninger said.