Instrumented Interconnecteds Intelligent

by Professor Jacques Beauvais, Vice-rector for Research, Université de Sherbrooke and Dave Danovitch, Senior Technical Staff Member, IBM Bromont, Microelectronics Division

What do a smart phone, computer, navigation system and digital scanner have in common? Microchip technology.

Technology is now engrained in every facet of our lives with new products and applications commercialized at a rapid pace. Consider this: We are already more than 2 billion people on the Internet  and by 2015, there will be more than 1 billion smart phones in circulation–in a world inhabited by 7 billion people .

This is opening the boundaries to endless opportunities. Governments, universities and enterprises worldwide are now tapping into the development of the next generation of technologies able to transport data faster with enhanced speed, quality and energy.

With massive investment in leading edge research and development activities in the microelectronic sector, we will accelerate the go-to-market process. Already, some activities are surfacing in the northeastern part of North America, stretching from East Fishkill in New York State to the Eastern Townships in Bromont, Canada in the microelectronics industry.

Recently, IBM led a multi-company $4.4B investment to develop advanced chip technologies and manufacturing at Albany Nanotech in East Fishkill with R&D partners Samsung and Global Foundries. East Fishkill is home to one of the world’s most advanced 300-millimeter wafer semiconductor manufacturing facilities, where IBM develops and manufactures chip technology for a range of IBM products and customer applications.

Elsewhere, two of Canada’s best-kept secrets are in Bromont, Quebec: IBM Canada’s semiconductor packaging plant operating since 1972 has a leading microelectronic technology packaging operation that must constantly innovate its portfolio.  And the MiQro-Innovation Collaborative Centre (C2MI), the fruit of a collective investment from both the federal and provincial Canadian governments, industry partners including IBM and Dalsa, and the Université de Sherbrooke, which opened its doors today as part of a $218 million investment.

Forged as a unique public-private partnership, the new Centre aims to become an international leader in packaging the next generation of microchips. The Centre will serve as a technology hub for global customers looking to carry out R&D activities to accelerate the commercialization of new electronic products for various industries such as healthcare, automotive, aerospace, environment and IT as well as mass consumer products.

Some of C2MI groundbreaking work will be in 3D packaging and photonic (optical) computing, just two examples of intelligently interconnecting microelectronics:

  • 3D integration, where chips are connected vertically through innovations in materials and assembly techniques, will provide higher performance in a smaller space with greater energy efficiency.
  • Photonic interconnection enables chips to communicate with each other at the speed of light.  A single high performance computer may need over a million such communication channels, each of which must be reliably and cost-effectively packaged.

To respond to tomorrow’s demand, microchips will need to be equipped with innovative and powerful attributes to work better and faster together while using less energy.

North America’s ability to remain competitive will have more to do with its focus on packaging and interconnecting a variety of novel, specialized chips than with producing high volume commodity chips such as standalone memory components.  The door is open for an environment capable of generating revenue and employment in an increasingly important aspect of the microelectronics chain–advanced packaging.

The challenge of developing the next generation of technologies could be overcome through innovative partnerships such as the one with C2MI in collaboration with universities, industry partners and governments.

With a high concentration of investments, innovation breakthroughs and skilled expertise, North American specialists trained in advanced research sectors in universities and research centres will have access to a pipeline fueled by collaboration. Fostering innovation and remaining competitive in sectors as critical as microelectronics is the name of the game after all.

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