European chip design is vital for car industry, says EDA executive

Semiconductor design for automotive systems is an important and growing technology capability for European companies, according to Jean-Marie Saint-Paul, European director at Mentor Graphics.


“Europe’s strong car industry is a big opportunity for the electronics design sector,” said Saint-Paul.

It is important that Europe protect s its remaining semiconductor design and production capabilities to support system-level design in sectors such as automotive, aerospace and medical. 

“Europe has its strengths in system rather than semiconductors, but maintaining European semiconductor capabilities are important for the systems sector in future,” said Saint-Paul.

With many volume fabs running digital processes having gone from Europe, it is the specialist fabs producing analogue ICs and MEMS devices which are important for the European industry.

“It is important to protect this,” said Saint-Paul. 

“We still have assets here in Europe in the generic [CMOS] nodes what are important for the car industry,” said Saint-Paul.

These include analogue IC production and CMOS processes greater than 90nm, and not the advanced process nodes on sub-20nm.

“But we should not forget these ‘classical’ semiconductor production nodes where we still have a strength and something to defend,” said Saint-Paul.    

According to Saint-Paul, collaboration between companies and universities in Europe will be crucial and he gives the example of French government plans to create a number of collaborative research programmes in areas such as 3D semiconductor research, automotive electronic systems and nanotechnologies for smartphones. 

At the heart of many of these programmes is the Grenoble-based Institute of Technological Research (IRT)

According to Saint-Paul, the research in Grenoble is important for local universities and companies because it will focus on emerging semiconductor technologies – 3D IC integration and integrated silicon-photonics.

”The more complex the problem we can tackle, the greater chance we have of making an impact here in Europe,” said Saint-Paul.

“We feel the industry faces challenges, not only in smaller geometries, but in stacked die and 3D IC technologies,” said Saint-Paul.

According to Saint-Paul, the French government wants to create a semiconductor cluster.

Mentor has just finished a five year collaboration with ST in the Nano2012 project based at the Crolles semiconductor facility.

System design drives Europe – Mentor Graphics CEO Wally Rhines

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