Micron says it will open memory-chip design center with 500 jobs. But not in Boise.

·4 min read

Micron Technology Inc. may have its research hub in Boise, but for a new memory-chip design center, the Boise company is going where no Micron engineering center has gone before: Georgia.

Micron has announced that the center in Midtown Atlanta will open in January and will create up to 500 jobs in computer hardware, electrical engineering and related fields.

The center in part is a result of what Micron called its “active engagement” with the Georgia Institute of Technology, a school perhaps best known to Boiseans as an occasional opponent of Boise State basketball and softball teams. The center is also a play to expand Micron’s supply of potential recruits.

Midtown Atlanta (north of downtown), seen in 2018 from the Georgia Tech campus. Micron says it will open a design center next month in Midtown in collaboration with Georgia Tech and other schools that would create up to 500 jobs.
Midtown Atlanta (north of downtown), seen in 2018 from the Georgia Tech campus. Micron says it will open a design center next month in Midtown in collaboration with Georgia Tech and other schools that would create up to 500 jobs.

“Atlanta is a growing tech hub for innovation and development in the U.S.,” Scott DeBoer, executive vice president of technology and products, said by email. “The Atlanta Design Center will provide Micron with the opportunity to attract technical talent from the large and diverse student population arising from the strong university presence in the Southeast.”

The company looks to build partnerships with many Atlanta-area colleges and universities, including Emory University, Georgia Tech, Morehouse College, Spelman College and the University of Georgia, Micron said.

“As we continue to develop world leading technology to meet the growing global demand for memory and storage, it is critical that Micron position our research and development efforts very strategically to ensure our future success,” DeBoer said.

Micron growth tied to 5G, AI, vehicles, servers

Micron announced in October that it plans to grow as the demand for its chips grows amid the rise of artificial intelligence, 5G phones, autonomous vehicles and server farms. It promised to invest more than $150 billion over the next 10 years in expanding manufacturing, research and development. Its expansion comes as the world continues to endure a computer-chip shortage prompted by rising demand.

Micron once made many of its chips in Boise, the city of its founding, but ended production manufacturing in 2009. Its headquarters campus in Southeast Boise has transformed into the company’s primary research-and-development center, employing highly educated engineers and scientists from around the world. Until now, Micron has said that Boise has the only American research and development center for dynamic random-access memory, or DRAM, Micron’s principal product.

Micron employs about 5,600 people in Boise, making it the largest for-profit employer in Idaho’s Treasure Valley. It still has fabrication units on its main campus for research and testing. Chips for sale are manufactured at a U.S. plant in Virginia, and in Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan and China. (Micron also made chips in Utah until selling its plant to Texas Instruments in October.)

Boise continues to play a “critical role,” DeBoer said, in Micron’s research and development strategy. He said the company recently brought a leading extreme ultraviolet lithography system to Micron’s Boise campus. It allows the production of leading-edge microchips containing billions of transistors.

The tiny transistors make chips used in smart phones and other electronics gear more powerful, faster and more energy-efficient.

“This machine, along with many other leading edge semiconductor tools and our world-class characterization labs present in Boise, will allow Micron to develop advanced technology in the future and enable ongoing innovation for semiconductor manufacturing,” DeBoer said.

Boise State relationships to continue, Micron says

The company has relationships with Boise State, which houses the Micron College of Business and Economics building, the Micron Center for Materials Research and the Appleton Tennis Center, named for Steve Appleton, the Micron CEO who died when the plane he was piloting crashed in Boise in 2012.

Those relationships will continue, DeBoer said, along with support for advancing K-12 STEM education opportunities in the state.

Micron says the company and its philanthropic foundation provide Georgia Tech students with experiential research and access to engineering education. Collaboration efforts include work with Georgia Tech’s Center for Engineering Education and Diversity, a peer-to-peer mentoring program, Micron’s COVID-19 UV Robot Design Challenge, and opportunities for underrepresented students.

“We are delighted Micron has chosen Atlanta as the location for their new R&D hub,” said Ángel Cabrera, president of Georgia Tech. “We look forward to expanding our collaboration with Micron and welcome them to the neighborhood.”

Micron said Monday that investments like the one in Atlanta are essential for advancing DRAM innovation. Memory and data storage are a growing part of the global semiconductor market and represent about 30% of all semiconductors today, the company said.

“Micron’s R&D investments are helping to meet the growing global demand for memory and storage, while furthering U.S. technology leadership,” the company said.

Business reporter John Sowell contributed.

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