Purdue University, for the first time, has been named one of the World’s Most Innovative Companies – coming in at No. 16 overall and No. 1 in education – for its advances in the vital field of semiconductors and microelectronics.
The only university among Fast Company magazine’s prestigious Top 50 Most Innovative Companies, No. 16 Purdue follows OpenAI (at No. 1, developer of ChatGPT and Dall-E) and leads NASA (No. 17) and The Walt Disney Company (No. 25) as organizations “paving the way for the innovations of tomorrow” and “setting the standard with some of the greatest accomplishments of the modern world.” Overall, the list acknowledges 540 organizations across 54 categories and regions around the world.
Fast Company cited Purdue as a renowned and globally recognized leader in developing a robust and comprehensive program addressing semiconductors through their life cycle from research to training to fabrication to the workforce. The tiny electronics that power almost everything with an “on” switch – and the workforce that keeps them functioning – are vital to almost every industry and product on Fast Company’s list, from NASA’s telescopes to Disney’s animatronic princesses.
“Without chips today, it would be like living in the 1940s,” said Mark Lundstrom, senior advisor to the Purdue president and the university’s chief semiconductor officer. “Chips are the most sophisticated technology that human beings produce, and it takes a highly educated workforce to manufacture them. Purdue is responding with innovation and initiative to prepare the industry’s next generation.”
By 2027 the nation will need a minimum of 50,000 trained semiconductor engineers to meet an accelerating demand for the tiny electronic devices that put the “smart” into our smartphones, cars and medical devices – not to mention our nation’s military and defense technologies.
Purdue answered the call by launching the Semiconductor Degrees Program, a suite of degrees and credentials to enable a quick ramp-up of in-demand skilled talent and create the next generation of semiconductor experts and personnel to reassert American preeminence in this critical industry.
“The graduates from these programs – from PhDs to associate degree-holders – will be at the forefront of innovation as we revitalize American manufacturing,” said Gina M. Raimondo, U.S. Secretary of Commerce, during a 2022 tour of campus research facilities.
Purdue innovation is helping lead the way in addressing this world issue. Not only is Purdue’s Semiconductor Degrees Program the only large-scale, interdisciplinary semiconductor degree program available in the United States, but it also touts a number of features not found in any other educational program. This includes a host of collaborative opportunities, such as the Department of Defense’s microelectronics workforce development initiative, SCALE (Scalable Asymmetric Lifecycle Engagement).
SCALE, headed by Purdue’s College of Engineering, brings together faculty from 16 other universities and experts from 34 additional industry partners – including the Department of Defense, NASA and the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration – to give students access to internships, careers and cutting-edge research opportunities in semiconductors.
The federally funded $30 million SCALE program will increase potential enrollment from 200 to 1,000 students, increasing access and allowing development of a K-12 learning model.
Purdue has also partnered with Ivy Tech Community College, the nation’s largest singly accredited statewide community college system, to develop industry-driven credentials and experience programs. The collaboration brings Purdue’s resources to populations that may not have had access to this type of program while upskilling a motivated workforce.
Investments in the future of the workforce have also drawn innovative neighbors to Purdue. U.S.-owned semiconductor manufacturer SkyWater Technology and Taiwan’s MediaTek Inc., the world’s fourth-largest chip designer by revenue, have each announced partnerships with Purdue in the last year.
SkyWater plans to open a $1.8 billion state-of-the-art semiconductor manufacturing facility in Discovery Park District at Purdue, a 400-acre, mixed-use development adjacent to campus. This will provide investing companies access to both Purdue University faculty experts and highly sought-after graduates prepared to work in the industry.
Building the company’s first semiconductor chip design center in the Midwest, and the first to be housed directly on a university campus, MediaTek Inc. will provide an opportunity for students to complete their engineering education and contribute directly to product design and solutions for a global team.
Purdue has been named a Fast Company Brand That Matters for two years in a row – the only university on the list both years. The annual designation honors organizations for communicating their brand’s mission and ideals with intention and authenticity. Purdue also has enjoyed five consecutive years as a top 10 Most Innovative university as designated by U.S. News & World Report.
In addition to the now-iconic tuition freeze, which is entering its 12th consecutive year, Purdue was named the country’s No. 4 most trusted public university by Morning Consult and is recognized as a top 10 public university by The Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education. It boasts 34 academic programs ranked in the top 10 by U.S. News & World Report, including No. 1 graduate programs in agricultural and biological engineering, and analytical chemistry, and No. 1 online master’s programs in electrical engineering, industrial engineering, mechanical engineering and engineering management.
“It is exciting for Purdue to be recognized in such a public channel for excellence at scale: generating talent, jobs and knowledge together, and for the benefit of Indiana and America,” said Purdue President Mung Chiang. “We strive to be the most consequential public university in creating, disseminating and deploying knowledge in areas making the most significant difference in society. In particular, we will keep pushing the frontiers of semiconductors learning, research and industry partnership.”
The March/April issue of Fast Company magazine, including the complete list of the World’s 50 Most Innovative Companies, is available online now and will be on newsstands beginning March 14. Additional coverage of Purdue, including an interview with President Chiang, will appear in the May/June Fast Company print issue, which will be on newsstands beginning May 9.