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The EUROPRACTICE integrated circuit (IC) service has brought the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) into its fold, furthering the close collaboration between this prominent semiconductor foundry and the Belgium-based Interuniversity Microelectronics Centre (Imec), a leading nanoelectronics research centre.
As a result, TSMC's 40-nanometre technologies, which enable the low-cost prototyping and production of very low-power devices, will soon be available to many research centres and universities across Europe.
IC fabrication is extremely expensive. The EUROPRACTICE IC service, funded with EUR 3.15 million through the 'Information and communication technologies' Theme of the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7), offers companies application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) services to help bring their products to market. Coordinated by Imec, the EUROPRACTICE IC service offers advanced prototyping technologies to 550 European universities and 50 research centres.
EUROPRACTICE negotiates with IC foundries to buy or share low-cost multi-project wafer (MPW) services. MPW services allow several teams working in different companies or research centres to combine their various integrated circuit designs onto a microelectronics wafer. In this way, private firms, students and researchers can share resources to create a small quantity of new designs at relatively low cost.
The new arrangement gives researchers access to TSMC's Cybershuttle MPW platform, a prototyping service that can integrate designs as small as 40 nanometres. It also allows teams to access TSMC's general purpose and low-power 'complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor' (CMOS) technologies. CMOS technology consumes relatively little power and is used to construct both digital (e.g. microprocessor) and analogue (e.g. image sensor) integrated circuits. CMOS products can pack a huge number of functions into a tiny space while producing very little waste heat.
The availability of these advanced fabrication technologies through the EUROPRACTICE IC service will be a boon to start-ups and companies with small niche markets, which are vital links in the innovation chain.
'Extending the partnership with Imec enhances our ability to support the growing innovation in the European semiconductor industry, particularly of small and medium enterprises, and enables European academia and research institutes to access TSMC's advanced technology offerings,' stated Maria Marced, President of TSMC Europe.
'We are very happy to extend our work together with TSMC,' added Carl Das, Director of Imec's EUROPRACTICE IC service. 'Imec is excited to add [TSMC's] 40 nanometre offering to its EUROPRACTICE university technology portfolio.' Mr Das pointed out that EUROPRACTICE is committed to providing 'the best and most advanced solutions to European academia and research institutes'.
For more information, please visit:
Interuniversity Microelectronics Centre (IMEC): www2.imec.be/be_en/home.html
Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC): www.tsmc.com/english/default.htm
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