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How a Small MEMS Foundry Crashed the CHIPS Act

How did a little outfit with only twenty employees qualify for federal CHIPS and Science Act grants?

Jessica Gomez, CEO at Rogue Valley Microdevices (Image: RVM)

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By Junko Yoshida

What’s at stake:
The CHIPS and Science Act has created the opportunity — and federal subsidies — for semiconductor companies both big and small to return chip production capacity to the United States. But thus far, the Department of Commerce’s decision-making process has been shrouded in mystery. The latest announcement of Rogue Valley Microdevices getting the grant gives us a glimpse into the federal government’s inner workings.

Likely ingredients necessary to horn into federal funding action? Chutzpah, street cred, and experience in the technology biz.

Without the power of major market share, what does it take to horn into federal funding action?  Likely ingredients include chutzpah, street cred, and experience in the technology biz. These qualities exist emphatically at Rogue Valley Microdevices (Medford, Oregon), a pure-play MEMS foundry founded by Jessica Gomez, once a lab operator at Standard Microsystems (SMSC) in Long Island, New York. Gomez worked at a small aging fab — attached to the then SMSC’s headquarters — where the company made MEMS inkjet printheads. 

Gomez’s journey started with a local community college science degree. She gained first-hand operational experience at SMSC and went on to run a foundry service at a short-lived MEMS company in California. This background convinced Gomez that she could establish her own MEMS foundry. She launched Rogue Valley Microdevices (RVM) in 2003.

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