€2.5bn for European 1nm chiplet pilot line at imec

€2.5bn for European 1nm chiplet pilot line at imec

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By Nick Flaherty

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imec in Belgium is to host a pilot line to develop 1nm CMOS SoC and chiplet technologies with an investment of €2.5bn.

The NanoIC pilot line will focus on sub-2nm CMOS technology, which will be key for the Intel 16A process with features as small as 1.6nm and below. Prototyping chiplets is expected to be a key technology for the line.

The funding was announced at the imec technology forum (ITF) in Antwerp today with €1.4bn expected to come from Horizon Europe and Digital Europe through the Chips Joint Undertaking(Chips JU) and the Flanders state government.

However the grant agreement with the Chips JU is currently ongoing and is expected to be signed later this year. This is one several pilot lines covered in eeNews Europe in April, including one for FD-SOI low power process technologies at CEA-Leti in Grenoble: Four pilot lines for the EU chip joint undertaking

Leti is also a partner in the NanoIC pilot line along with Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft in Germany, VTT in Finland, CSSNT in Romania and the Tyndall Institute in Ireland.

The remaining €1,1bn will come from industrial partners including lithography equipment maker ASML. Imec has worked closely with ASML, Intel, Rapidus and Qualcomm as well as foundries TSMC, UMC, GlobalFoundries and X-Fab over the last decade on process development. Other core partners include  Micron, Samsung, SK Hynix, Sony Semiconductor Solutions, AMD, Kioxia and Western Digital.

Intel has reportedly purchased the 2024 capacity of ASML for the latest high NA lithography machines for 2nm process and below.

NanoIC will be constructed as an extension of the already existing imec pilot line
facilities, built up over the previous decades and will also help European and global equipment and material suppliers to set up the supplier ecosystem beyond 2nm.

This is not just about the leading edge large AI chips, says imec, pointing to semiconductors for automotive, telecommunications and health as the pilot line will play a crucial ‘translator’ role between breakthrough semiconductor innovation and the European industry through early-stage Process Design Kits (PDKs).

Start-ups, SMEs, universities, and design and system companies can use design pathfinding PDKs for virtual device prototyping, and system exploration PDKs for prototyping of advanced
technology components on top of commercially available foundry wafer. 

Foundries and IDMs (Integrated Device Manufacturers) can evaluate innovations in process flows and equipment, allowing for derisking new features before making internal investments and as such improving the speed and efficiency of industrial process development.

This is particularly significant for Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) in health and automotive for chiplets. The small volume manufacturing, imec provides a pathway for companies to scale up from prototype to production.

Key to the pilot line’s success will be the development of a pan-European design platform together with access to a network of competence centres offering training and support to boost design skills that was also announced earlier.

The design infrastructure will be a critical link between the technology and design communities to accelerate development and reduce time-to-market for new products based on advanced technologies.

“The support from EU, the Flemish government and industry partners will enable us to not only retain our leadership position, but also pivot closer to market demands. The investment will allow us to double volumes and learning speed, accelerating our innovation pace, strengthening the European chip ecosystem, and driving economic growth in Europe,” said Luc Van den hove, President and CEO of imec at ITF today.


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