Building Technology Platforms
“An important organizational point,” Mr. Van Helleputte said, “is that IMEC begins to form its IP from a ‘research infrastructure’ on which they build ‘technology platforms’ of expertise and competence.” Building from this idea, IMEC provides a complex, five-level “leveraging strategic approach” to increase value for the institute and its partners. As stated in its overarching theme, “an R&D institute’s growth path depends on its capability to maximize its leveraging effects at different levels.” In other words, a research institute with multiple technology programs can offer them to multiple partners and harvest greater value from the resulting partnerships. “So, you’re building leverage on leverage on leverage,” said Mr. Van Helleputte “and you reuse the mechanism of co-ownership without any accounting to each other about the foreground research.”
He turned to IMEC’s strategic orientation in view of industry trends. He said that industry is now making a distinction between “More Moore”—continued CMOS scaling and maximization of chip performance—and “More than Moore” or maximizing the functionality of single chips. The first approach focuses predominantly on device performance where materials are paramount, with lithography being an instrumental path of research. The second approach focuses on heterogeneous integration of different functionalities into a single chip (SOC) or into a single package (System-in-a-package). In More Moore, IMEC is now working on 22nm, 16nm, and even smaller devices, where new materials and device research are central. “IMEC tries to explore multiple options,” he said, “so companies can see at an early stage which one has a chance to become a market winner.” He added that with a “core partner system,” each core partner can subscribe to a total menu of programs or choose a subset of those. These partners include “the whole ecosystem” of firms: leading integrated device manufacturers, memory suppliers, logic suppliers, equipment and material suppliers, pure foundries and designers.
Help with Custom Applications
Mr. Van Helleputte described a new initiative called CMORE that builds on the existing infrastructure and technology platforms to aim at custom application solutions.15 “For example,” he said, IMEC can work with companies that may have a brilliant new idea but have difficulty implementing it in a commercial setting. This involves first testing the technical feasibility,” which “may involve joint R&D, development-on-demand, prototyping, and low-volume production.” He mentioned the case of a partner who asked for help putting 10 million mirrors on a chip that could be steered individually. The chip had to be
15IMEC’s CMORE initiative is a platform designed to allow companies to turn their innovative concepts into packaged microsystems products, based on IMEC’s expertise in the field.