They keep your computer humming, your cell phone ringing, and even the antilock brakes in your car, well, braking. Without them, medical devices and the internet would be useless.
Semiconductors today fuel the economy and our daily lives, and with the number of circuits that scientists are able to fit on a chip still doubling every 18 months, new funding for research is always needed.
Since 1998, the Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) has lobbied Congress for appropriations for its Focus Center Research Program (FCRP), which supports five research-based centers made up of 30 leading universities. But last year, when the FCRP was left out of President Bush's budget, the SIA turned to Golin Harris to help it secure $20 million in Defense Department appropriations, which would be matched by the industry up to $20 million.
"In many ways this program sells itself because of the importance of semiconductor technology to the economy and national security," says Daryl Hatano, VP of public policy at SIA. "But even with the intellectual justification behind us, it [was] still very helpful to have Golin Harris' expertise to help us navigate our way through the appropriations process."
Although funding from Congress had decreased for fiscal 2004, the lobbying effort had a solid foundation from previous years. The SIA also had a champion for its cause in Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA), chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, Hatano says.
Still, both agency and client recognized a need to increase the intensity of the effort.
"Our tactic was that you need to go see more people. You must build more champions for this initiative," says Michael Fulton, EVP at Golin. "We basically applied a little more coordination, energy, and organization to what they already were doing."
Waged over eight months, the lobbying effort brought together SIA, industry, and university leaders.
After writing a proposal for the funding request, SIA president George Scalise drafted a letter to all 535 members of Congress seeking support. Letters from the California House delegation, the CEOs of leading semiconductor companies, and another 21 House members followed at strategic moments in the appropriations process.
Golin also coordinated 68 Capitol Hill meetings, dinners between industry CEOs and Congress members, and two SIA-industry-university briefings with technology and manufacturing caucuses.
"Whenever we went into those 68 meetings, no one could say, 'We we never heard about this,' because we sent the letter [from Scalise] back in February," Fulton explains. "No one [could] say, 'I am not aware of this request' or 'We can't be helpful because you missed a deadline.' We put it on record."
Despite falling short of the FCRP's $20 million target, the fiscal 2005 budget included $17 million for the center, representing a $10.2 million boost in awarded funds over fiscal 2004.
The semiconductor industry went beyond its initial pledge to match the government's appropriation dollar-for-dollar by awarding the maximum of $20 million, bringing the total funds to $37 million. The SIA also earned "authorization" status, putting it into a stronger position for future funding.
With another $20 million in federal funds in its sights for fiscal 2006, SIA has again asked Golin to spearhead its lobbying efforts for the FCRP. The firm will focus on adding even more "champions" to its list of supporters.
"Instead of having 10 people sign the California delegation letter, this year we better have 30," Fulton says. "We will again be increasing the amount of work that we do, trying to reach more members of Congress."
PR team: Semiconductor Industry Association (San Jose, CA) and Golin Harris (Washington, DC)
Campaign: Securing appropriations funds for university technology research
Time frame: January 1 to August 30, 2004