French government backs long term research projects
The French government is supporting the creation of 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)
An IRT-based automotive technology research cluster includes Renault, Valeo, Continential and Mentor Graphics.
IRT is also the centre for the NanoElec Programme, a collaboration between universities, research organisation CEA-Leti and companies including Mentor Graphics, STMicroelectronics and Soitec.
Backing for the 10-year microelectronics programme has come from the French National Research Agency (ANR) and the CEA (French Atomic and Renewable Energy Commission).
According to Jean-Marie Saint-Paul, European director at Mentor Graphics, 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.
“We feel the industry faces challenges, not only in smaller geometries, but in stacked die and 3D IC technologies,” Saint-Paul told Electronics Weekly.
“We believe we cannot solve these problems in isolation, and so it is important to collaborate with customers in the Grenoble programme,” said Saint-Paul.
According to Saint-Paul, the French government wants to create a semiconductor cluster.
“It is a very aggressive approach to semiconductor research, the French government wants to see tangible results,” he said.
“For us we see it as an opportunity to work closely with ST and CEA-Leti on 3D ICs and silicon photonics,” said Saint-Paul.
He said that Mentor had been collaborating with ST since 2007 in the Nano2012 project based at the Crolles semiconductor facility.
That project ends this year and Saint-Paul said the new programme will build on this work of this collaboration in France.
The IRT’s 3D IC programme will incorporate chip design, process technologies and design tools.
On-chip communications and sensors technologies will be a focus of the silicon-photonics R&D work at the IRT.
According to Saint-Paul, although the creation of the cluster in Grenoble is a 10-year project, he expected commercial results from the work in “3-year cycles”.
There are still many technical challenges to be met before successfully achieving photonic functions on a silicon circuit: providing CAD design tools, developing specific components like laser sources, optical modulators, wide bandwidth photo-detectors, passive waveguides, wavelength multiplexers and demultiplexers.
“Thanks to the NanoElec IRT, we can work together to accelerate developments and open the applications field,” said Philippe Magarshack, STMicroelectronics v-p, Design Enablement & Services.
A nanotechnologies and embedded software research cluster in Grenoble, called Minalogic, is taking part in a project called NOMAD (Navigation on Mobile Objects and 3D Access) investigating the use of MEMS motion sensors and 3D graphics in mobile phones.
The project has created human-machine interface technology, such as the “Interaction” software toolbox for 2D and 3D graphics rendering to create alternatives to the traditional window, icon, menu and pointing-device interfaces
There is also the “Motion” software toolbox that uses motion sensors (accelerometers, magnetometers, gyroscopes) for implementing new “in-air” cursor control and gesture-based media content navigation
These were implemented on hardware and software platforms for Linux & Android smartphones.
Partners in the project include Myriad Group and ST-Ericsson, Calao Systems and Movea, as well as CEA-Leti and LIG – Grenoble Informatics Laboratory.