NEWS RELEASE, 12/11/98
UC Berkeley is part of new partnership between
the semiconductor industry, the federal government and U.S. universities
to create national research network on core chip issues
By Robert Sanders, Public Affairs
SAN JOSE -- The U.S. semiconductor industry, the federal government and 14 of the nation's most prestigious universities have created a new national research network to conduct cutting-edge projects that are critical to the growth of U.S. technology industries, the Semiconductor Industry Association announced today.
The network, formally known as the Focus Center Research Program, will lead to the creation of six national Focus Centers that, when fully funded, sustain $60 million per year in new research activities. Over a 10-year period, the program is expected to channel more than $600 million into the nation's research universities.
"This program is the most ambitious research project that the U.S. chip industry has undertaken since 1987, when SIA companies agreed to form SEMATECH," said Dr. Craig R. Barrett, President and Chief Executive Officer of Intel Corporation and Oversight Director of the SIA's Technology Strategy Committee. "The Focus Center program is the centerpiece of our new long-range plan to maintain the industry"'s growth by making sure we address the technological challenges that surface during the next decade."
Contracts for the first two Focus Centers have been awarded to a network of universities from seven states that are headed by the University of California, Berkeley, and Georgia Institute of Technology. The UC Berkeley consortium, representing10 universities, will undertake projects on "design and test" issues. The Georgia Tech consortia, representing six schools, will pursue research on "interconnect" technology.
Both of the initial Focus Centers, which are funded through 2001, will investigate technological challenges identified in the National Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors (NTRS). The Roadmap not only projects industry technology needs over the next 15 years, but identifies critical issues that must be resolved in order to maintain the chip industry"'s historic pace of innovation.
"During the next decade, the real challenge will be technology itself ñ advancing the performance of the integrated circuit," Barrett said. "Today, we are aligning ourselves with the best researchers and the best universities in the country to overcome the technology barriers of the future. With this team, I am very optimistic we will break down those barriers and fuel our future growth."
The design and test research, led by UC Berkeley, refers to software programs used to create chips, as well as the testing of semiconductor components to ensure circuits work correctly. The UC Berkeley team, led by project Professor Richard Newton, includes Carnegie Mellon University of Pennsylvania, University of Michigan, MIT, Princeton, Stanford, UCLA, UC Santa Barbara, UC Santa Cruz and UC San Diego.
"The new university-industry/government partnership represented by the Focus Center Research Program will be of immense value in keeping the United States at the forefront of the vital semiconductor industry," said Richard Atkinson, President of the UC system. "The University of California and our sister institutions around the nation look forward to performing research that will provide solutions to some of the most challenging technological problems of our time."
Interconnect research, conducted by the Georgia Tech consortium, will address the wiring that connects the millions of transistors on a microchip. The Georgia Tech team is headed by Professor James Meindl. Universities affiliated with the Interconnect Focus Center include MIT, Stanford and three institutions from New York - Cornell, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and the State University of New York at Albany.
"The Interconnect Focus Center project is the most exciting academic research program in microelectronics," Meindl said. "Our overarching goal is to discover and invent new solutions that enable the U.S. chip industry to transcend the known limits on interconnections that would otherwise slow the progress of semiconductor technology."
Funding for the research centers will come from member companies of the SIA; SEMI/SEMATECH, a consortium of U.S. semiconductor suppliers; and the Department of Defense, represented by Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA). Following a review of the first two centers, four additional focus centers - each dedicated to a different technology issue - may be added to the research network by 2005.
In addition to funding research, the Focus Center program will provide new monies for faculty and student salaries, equipment and upgrading university research facilities. The semiconductor industry funds, moreover, will offset some of the recent federal cutbacks in technology research spending.
"This program provides a tremendous opportunity for U.S. chip companies and the federal government to leverage their resources," said SIA President George Scalise. "By helping to ensure the progress of the U.S. chip industry, the project makes a critical investment in the future of the U.S. economy."
The Focus Center program will be managed by DARPA and by a new industry entity, the Microelectronics Advanced Research Corporation (MARCO). MARCO is a subsidiary of the North Carolina-based Semiconductor Research Corporation, which was created by the SIA in 1982 to stimulate university research programs in semiconductor technology. SRC annually funds $30 million in research projects.
"Focus Centers partner the experience and resources of private industry and the research arm of the U.S. government with the creative environment of the university research community," said SRC President and CEO Larry W. Sumney. "This broad-based, cutting-edge research will be important in maintaining America"'s academic and economic leadership."
The program also represents an important partnership between the semiconductor manufacturers and their suppliers - the members of SEMI/SEMATECH.
"Increasingly, new processes and technologies are coming to semiconductor manufacturers through their suppliers," said Dr. Paul S. Peercy, President of SEMI/SEMATECH. "This venture program gives U.S. suppliers the opportunity to interact closely with leading U.S. research universities to develop advanced technologies that benefit all segments of the industry as well as our customers."
Focus Center researchers will investigate technology solutions for issues that are eight to 10 years in the future. When the research leads to positive results, representatives from DARPA and the participating funding semiconductor companies will work with the research teams to bring the technology into the marketplace.
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