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New question release: aluminum prices, lithography machines, and China’s top universities

Mar 31, 2022 08:34PM UTC

INFER just launched 3 new questions in our Microelectronic Technologies topic, which feeds into our broader focus area of U.S. Competitiveness in AI:

What will the price per ton of aluminum be on 1 July 2022? 

Aluminum is used to create a number of different semiconductor components including interconnects, bonding and probing pads, and ceramic packages. Recently, a shortage of aluminum, due in part to lower Chinese output and other supply issues, has caused prices to spike. Sanctions on Russia, the 3rd largest producer of aluminum (as of 2019), have the potential to restrict supply even further. High prices and potential shortages could significantly reduce companies’ abilities to manufacture semiconductors (among other things). Our question will help give an understanding of how the U.S. Government can expect the price of a critical component of microelectronic manufacturing to change in the near future.

What percentage of ASML's lithography sales will be to the United States in 2022? 

Developing the ability to manufacture advanced chips is a key part of U.S. strategy for increasing its competitiveness in microelectronics. The most advanced chip fabrication processes require extreme ultraviolet lithography (EUV). ASML, a Dutch company, is the only firm in the world capable of making this equipment. The company has been hit hard by supply chain issues and equipment shortages and is anticipating a shortage of the machinery they produce. U.S.-based Intel has sent manufacturing experts to ASML to help build additional capacity, but the process will take time. Separately, Intel has plans to build new fabrication facilities (or fabs) in Arizona and Ohio, and both of these fabs will require advanced EUV machinery from ASML (SiliconANGLE, Ars Technica). By looking at ASML’s sales to the U.S., this forecast question will a) give insight into how those shortages will impact the ability of the U.S. to grow its manufacturing, and b) provide an early indicator of U.S. capacity, since those sales are precursors to bringing fabrication facilities online.

How many Chinese Universities will be listed in QS World University Rankings’ top 100 universities for computer science?

Having the right talent is critical to success in advanced technological fields like artificial intelligence. Top universities in the U.S. attract talented people from around the world, many of whom choose to stay after graduating, increasing the total talent pool available to U.S. technology companies. However, Chinese universities have been consistently improving over the last ten years, chipping away at U.S. educational dominance and providing an increasingly viable alternative for both Chinese students and students from around the world. Our question measures the extent to which Chinese universities will continue to improve their capacity and reputation in fields related to A.I.

All currently running forecast questions can be found here.
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