September 13, 2023

Purdue panels to address US semiconductor needs, ‘Next Big Things in Tech’ at Fast Company Innovation Festival

President Mung Chiang, professor Luna Lu among speakers featured for ‘shaping the future’

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Featured alongside Hilton, AT&T, Patagonia and Moderna, Purdue University will share its innovative solutions to some of the world’s toughest challenges as part of the ninth annual Fast Company Innovation Festival taking place Sept. 18-21 in New York City.

The four-day festival, attended by thousands of the world’s most inventive thinkers, up-and-coming entrepreneurs and visionaries, showcases “creativity and groundbreaking ideas that are transforming industries.” Purdue will take part in two panel discussions sharing excellence at scale in semiconductor workforce development and innovative “smart concrete” technology. 

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The Sept. 20 panel “Securing the Future: Driving Innovation Through the Semiconductor Workforce” will bring together government, academia and industry as Purdue President Mung Chiang and Adrienne Elrod, director of external and government affairs in the CHIPS Program Office, take the stage to share how collaboration is elevating the semiconductor ecosystem.

“Our nation has a serious challenge ahead: a need for 50,000 trained semiconductor engineers this decade to help power our phones, cars and everyday devices, and our nation’s military and defense technologies,” Chiang said. “Through the Semiconductor Degrees Program and as part of the Purdue Computes initiative, Purdue is answering the call with unparalleled excellence at scale.”

To educate the workforce needed to produce the most sophisticated technology humans create, Purdue launched its Semiconductor Degrees Program, a suite of degrees and credentials to enable a quick ramp-up of in-demand skilled talent to reassert American preeminence in this critical industry. In April, Purdue’s Board of Trustees approved Phase 1 of a $100 million plan to upgrade semiconductor research and learning facilities and hire 50 faculty members as part of the three-pronged Purdue Computes initiative

SkyWater plans to open a $1.8 billion state-of-the-art semiconductor manufacturing facility in Discovery Park District at Purdue, the bookend forming America’s Hard Tech Corridor. Recently called “Indiana’s chip-making metamorphosis” by The New York Times, the 65-mile corridor between Purdue’s flagship West Lafayette campus and Purdue University in Indianapolis, Purdue’s new urban campus, will become the most consequential engine of economic growth and brain gain in the Midwest as it continues to generate workforce, jobs and innovation.

During another panel on Sept. 21, Luna Lu, associate dean and the Reilly Professor in the Lyles School of Civil Engineering, will share how her “smart concrete,” named a Fast Company Next Big Things in Tech, is cutting down construction time and saving taxpayers millions of dollars. Lu’s innovative sensors, which allow concrete to “communicate” with engineers about its strength, have already been embedded in highways in at least eight states, including at the future I-465 interchange to I-69 south on Indianapolis’ south side.

“Traffic jams caused by infrastructure repairs have wasted 4 billion hours and 3 billion gallons of gas on a yearly basis,” Lu said. “This technology cuts down on construction, is better for the environment and is able to adapt to future needs as vehicles continue to evolve.”

Earlier this year, Fast Company editors ranked Purdue No. 16 among the World’s Most Innovative Companies and No. 1 in education, citing the university’s mission to solve the nationwide shortage of semiconductor engineers. Purdue follows OpenAI (at No. 1) and leads NASA (No. 17) and The Walt Disney Co. (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.” Purdue has also been recognized by Fast Company among its Brands That Matter for two years in a row — the only university on the list both years.

“We can’t think of a better place to showcase Purdue’s consistent instigation of progress than the Fast Company Innovation Festival,” said R. Ethan Braden, executive vice president and chief marketing and communications officer at Purdue University and Purdue University Global. “Whether addressing the nation’s semiconductor shortage, aiding brain gain and preventing brain drain with our new urban campus in Indianapolis, reimagining the business school of the future, or helping working adults complete a degree they can be proud of with Purdue Global, persistent small steps at Purdue are turning into giant innovative leaps each day, and we are ever grateful for Fast Company’s continued recognition and partnership.”

In addition to Purdue’s now-iconic tuition freeze, which has saved Purdue families more than $1 billion since the 2012-13 academic year, Purdue also was named the country’s No. 4 most trusted public university by Morning Consult. It was also recognized as a top 10 public university in 2022 by The Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education and a top 10 Most Innovative University for five years straight by U.S. News & World Report.

As well as Chiang and Lu, Fast Company’s Innovation Festival includes a variety of speakers such as actor, producer, director and chief communications officer of Pendulum Therapeutics Halle Berry; Proudly co-founders Dwyane Wade and Gabrielle Union; and Slack CEO Lidiane Jones

“Purdue University is an exemplary Fast Company partner — recognized repeatedly by our editors for its achievements in innovation and in its purpose-driven mission and practices,” said Melissa Rocco, senior vice president of sales for Fast Company. “Having the university’s thought-leadership on stage at this year’s Festival will shine a bright light on Purdue’s excellence for our thousands of attendees in New York City, as well as for our worldwide audience online,” added Rocco.

About Purdue University

Purdue University is a public research institution with excellence at scale. Ranked among top 10 public universities and with two colleges in the top 4 in the United States, Purdue discovers and disseminates knowledge with a quality and at a scale second to none. More than 105,000 students study at Purdue across modalities and locations, with 50,000 in person on the West Lafayette campus. Committed to affordability and accessibility, Purdue’s main campus has frozen tuition 12 years in a row. See how Purdue never stops in the persistent pursuit of the next giant leap, including its first comprehensive urban campus in Indianapolis, the new Mitchell E. Daniels, Jr. School of Business, and Purdue Computes, at

Writer/Media contact: Trevor Peters,, @TrevorPeters__

Sources: Mung Chiang @PurduePresident, Luna Lu, R. Ethan Braden @REthanBraden

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