Brief

Semiconductor Chips for Sustainable Development

This technology brief recommends policy shifts that align with tangible developments in semiconductor chips.

The purpose of this technology brief is to recommend policy shifts that align with tangible developments in semiconductor chips. Attainment of sustainability must be centred on policy changes or fostering initiatives. Chips, or small semiconductors with an embedded electronic circuit that transmits data signals, are essential for many technologies, including smartphones, electric vehicles, and medical devices. They are also crucial for developing new technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI) or the Internet of Things (IoT), with applications for industries such as renewable energy, healthcare, precision agriculture, and aerospace for instance. Chips and their applications are crucial for sustainable development. Sustainable development approaches are long-term plans that seek to meet the requirements of the present without compromising resources and possibilities for future generations.

The current global semiconductor supply chain is extremely concentrated in a few nations, such as the USA, China, including the Province of Taiwan, and the Republic of Korea. This supply concentration makes the industry susceptible to disruptions when unfortunate events happen, like the COVID-19 pandemic and the recent conflict in Ukraine. Moreover, it raises concerns about the security and resilience of the global supply of semiconductors, and the call to expand this supply chain and increase the production of chips should be addressed. Supply concentration is of high-risk based on the inherent potential to cause disruptions with large impact across various sectors globally and should be made more decentralized and sustainable. This does not even account for the immense possibilities associated with the next revolutions in the area through analog (semiconductors designed to process and manipulate continuous electrical signals), AI chips (semiconductors designed to perform the complex mathematical calculations required for AI efficiently), and quantum chips (semiconductors based on the principles of quantum mechanics).

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Suggested citation: Marwala Tshilidzi. Semiconductor Chips for Sustainable Development : UNU Centre, 2023.

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