The initial focus of the collaboration will be on CMOS and More-than-Moore processes and technologies for next-generation electronics components. The move demonstrates a coming together of France and Germany in the wake of increased global uncertainty after elections in the United States and the United Kingdom.
"Micro, nanoelectronics and smart systems are key enabling technologies for the economic success of Europe, especially in France and Germany. Thus, Europe can no longer afford to scatter its research competences," said Hubert Lakner, chairman of the microelectronics group of Fraunhofer. "The new cooperation agreement will be the starting point for a strategic research cooperation of the two countries in order to jointly support the upcoming EC initiative, Important Project of Common European Interest (IPCEI), on micro- and nanoelectronics."
The second phase of the collaboration may be expanded with additional academic partners and other countries, as needed, Leti and Fraunhofer said.
The Important Project of Common European Interest (IPCEI) is a European Union policy instrument that facilitates state support for manufacturing, without breaching European competition laws – and by extension, arguably, World Trade Organization rules.
Notably Belgium has not yet opted to join the IPCEI scheme on nano- and microelectronics and Belgian research institute IMEC has not joined in to formally align its research with Leti and Fraunhofer. Similarly, the Netherlands, home to NXP Semiconductor, is not thought to be in the scheme.
The agreement was signed today by Leti CEO Marie Semeria and Fraunhofer's Lakner during the Leti Innovation Days event that is marking Leti’s 50th anniversary. The two groups have pledged to align their roadmaps and maximize complementarity. The two executives are also set to attend a Franco-German governmental summit in two weeks time where the strategic nature of microelectronics will be raised, they said.
The two research institutes will initially focus on extending CMOS and More-than-Moore technologies to enable next-generation components. In particular it will focus on FDSOI, sensors and power electronics and compound semiconductors for applications in the Internet of Things, augmented reality, automotive, health, aeronautics and other sectors in support of French and German industries.
"Microelectronics in Europe and France is strategic," said Semeria. "We are facing the double challenge of sovereignty. We have to consider more and more our ability to keep the knowledge [developed here] and to understand components coming from outside." Semeria added: "In Europe we have to face two challenges: 1) maintaining manufacturing in Europe. Opportunities in IoT and microcontrollers are rocketing. Things are changing rapidly to allow the ramping up. 2) to articulate the global supply chain."
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