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At Large: The IMEC ARRM2007 Press Review

Editor’s Note: The following reports are from Jim Kobylecky, our own Chip Design editor. – JB

With competitive pressures growing and R&D budgets shrinking, where is the future coming from? Where are the generations beyond the next generation of technology being actively and practically explored?

One hopeful answer is here in Leuven, Belgium . It’s a town that features a university nearly 600 years old and the scene of many intellectual conflicts and resolutions. It’s a locale steeped in the work and fun of learning (see figure 1). It’s also the center for IMEC, a highly successful consortium of technology companies and university academics, where the costs, risks and rewards of advanced research are shared.

Jim_IMEC_pic1

Some forty editors and journalists from around the world came for the ARRM2007 Press Review, an advanced peek at the latest and greatest that will be shown to the larger world later this week.

The first day’s program kicked off with general presentations by several officers including its president, Gilbert Declerck, and Chief Operating Officer Luc Van den hove (see figure below)on the state of the consortium and on IMEC’s response to the changing semiconductor landscape. There were briefings on the latest program announcements and then Maarten Willems, the Emerging Business Strategy Director, drove us into the future with “The road to autonomous driving.

IMEC Pres and COO

There were many program announcements, which I’ll try to get to later. But I think I most enjoyed the chance to look inside the workings of the consortium itself. It’s R&D with a big “R.? Its task is to work ahead of industrial needs by 3 to 10 years in microelectronics and many related fields. But it’s not just tasked with being a center of world wide excellence through its papers and patents, but to also serve the local area with spin offs, collaborations, training and educational interactions. Originally funded in 1984 largely by the Flanders state government of Belgium, it is now one of the largest independent R&D organizations in the world with a staff of 1550 and most of its funding coming from its industry partners.

IMEC works early. In its scope, industry competitors can still work together creatively and openly. The competitive edge each seeks will be honed later, after the real road blocks to development have been creatively solved.

There are many things I still don’t know, and probably can’t from my perspective – such as how the handoff happens from deep, individual research into the teams necessary for early development – but I liked what I saw so far. – Jim

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