"All those semiconductor companies are members of our programmes and are committed to them," says Luc van den Hove, President of Imec, "we're starting the initial projects on 450mm inside EU projects like ENIAC. We're doing the early R&D on materials and technologies, and Albany is complementary to that."
Imec's 450mm projects include working on early tool registration, wafer patterning and standardisation. "It's very early work," says van den Hove.
"The role of Imec is not to transition to the next wafer size, we're not developing tools, our core competence is process development," says van den Hove, "but I truly believe that the most advanced process R&D has to be done on leading-edge tools and we have aligned the timing of the transition to the needs of our partners."
"I believe it is extremely important for Europe to have that capability. If we want to be leading in manufacturing capability in five year's time we have to be be involved now. We have some of the world's leading equipment suppliers; and the world's leading materials suppliers and we are a leading power in R&D."
Asked if it is yet possible to build a 450mm wafer which is sufficiently rigid and sufficiently planar, van den Hove replies "Yes. It has been demonstrated."
A key challenge, says van den Hove, is to: "to synchronise all the developments with the suppliers because if one tool is missing from the chain, you can't do it. Albany is increasing the momentum towards the alignment of the suppliers."
"The Albany model is helpful," adds van den Hove, "we are a global organization based in Europe. We work with European suppliers and have pioneered a model of open innovation. But we can't do all the innovation in one location. This transition is going to be so hard and so difficult you can't do it all in one place, so we welcome any co-operation with Albany."