35-year old IMEC marries technology and wisdom
“Because IMEC’s focus on leading R&D for semiconductor technologies has enabled many new applications in our daily lives, it is very important to position not only the technology push but also to look at where our technology will stand in the future. This is why, as of this year, we call the event “Future Summits” which in reality is a combination of three events” explained Van den hove.
“On the first day is the IMEC Technology Forum, focused on technology and how it can improve the quality of our lives. On the 2nd day, we’ll take a different perspective, starting from societal challenges to figure out how technology can bring new solutions. It is a more visionary approach, looking at how we can address key challenges such as climate change or an ageing society with dramatic healthcare cost increases, and how we can leverage technology and Artificial Intelligence to find adequate solutions. Which leads us to the third part of the conference, with a particular focus on AI, a very hot topic.
Cooperation is key in this very connected academic world and as Van den hove highlighted, “IMEC has grown from being a central R&D powerhouse for semiconductor technologies to many different fields enabled by the resulting integrated circuits, moving to IoT and smart industrial applications. Whereas in the past, the platforms were very generic, now we have to develop technology that is much more application specific. That’s why we collaborate more with a consortium approach now, not just developing technology for a few big customers”.
Being asked if IMEC sees new IP usage trends from all the startups it nurtures with its imec.xpand Venture Capital fund, the CEO hints at healthcare again.
“As we move to new applications, we create our own startups to leverage our IP and commercialize it. Especially, the most impactful initiatives are moving towards healthcare applications such as next-generation wearables to monitor vital signs or the behaviour of people with mental health conditions such as Alzheimer. But by far, it is not the only area where we see our IP being used, the automotive sector with autonomous vehicles and also smart manufacturing and smart cities are big trends”
“If you look at the total IP usage from all the startups we’ve spun-off from IMEC’s beginning, then it may not necessary be the case, but if you look over the last five years or so, then healthcare probably takes the largest share“.
Now AI, is probably the hottest and widest-ranging topic of all, with edge-AI the new buzzword hovering over all machine learning debates. At government-level, some say who leads the AI race will increase geopolitically power.
“AI is an extremely hot topic and comes back everywhere, it has become kind of a pervasive topic and enormous progress has been made in this domain. Where Europe can make a difference is by leveraging the strengths we have, our capability to develop extremely distributed AI” commented the CEO.
“If you take AI today, for example when using voice recognition on a smartphone, a lot of this goes to the cloud where you have very powerful cores, MCU and GPU chips performing the AI algorithms. But this is not very energy efficient, you have to transmit the data back and forth, the GPUs consume a lot of power. With distributed edge AI, we could create AI nodes that draw a thousand times or even ten-thousand times less energy, so they could sit close to the sensor nodes like in the automotive space, all combined providing enormous processing power at extremely low power. The same goes for the IoT, you need more computing power with less energy. This is where neuromorphic architectures come into play, mimicking the biological brain with synaptic-type memory devices”.
Van den hove referred to IMEC’s recent collaboration announcement with CEA-Leti on quantum and neuromorphic computing, with the aim to strengthen Europe’s strategic and economic sovereignty.
“We’ll combine our expertises on AI with our know-how on 5G technology together with solid encryption for privacy and embed all that in end-nodes” the CEO concluded.
During “Future Summits”, each conference will host a speaker line-up of renowned experts invited to share their views and insights from different perspectives. A joint tech exhibition will also showcase 55 interactive demos of tech breakthroughs, research advances, applications and solutions for Smart Health, Smart Mobility, Industry 4.0, Smart Cities, VR, Smart Energy and more.
More information and registration at www.futuresummits.com
Imec – www.imec-int.com