17 April 2017—Early this month, Two large German applied-research institutes, the Fraunhofer Association and the Leibnitz Association, have announced that they have received €350 million from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) to create a decentralized, cross-location facility for micro- and nanoelectronics research. The venture, to be called “Research Fab Microelectronics Germany,” aims, according to a press release, to “offer even smaller companies top technology under optimum conditions,” and to place at the disposal of a range of companies and universities single-source access to “the entire value chain for microelectronics and nanoelectronics.”

Under a single “virtual roof”

The new research fab will involve eleven institutes of the Fraunhofer Group for Microelectronics and two Leibnitz institutes, which will combine and reorganize resources into four technology parks organized around four “future-relevant” themes: silicon-based technologies; compound semiconductors and special substrates; heterointegration; and design, testing and reliability. The reorganization, according to the Fraunhofer/Leibnitz partnership, will put “more than 2,000 scientists and the necessary equipment for technological research and development under a single, virtual roof.”

Among the emphases for R&D targeted by the facility that the announcement specifically identified were advancing fully depleted silicon-on-insulator technology, developing the technical foundations for industrial use of quantum technologies, THz system development, and reductions in power requirements.

European interest

While funded by a German ministry and involving two German institutes, the project’s organizers are pitching it as an undertaking that will serve larger European interests. The German BMBF funding is explicitly designed to complement the European Commission’s “Important Project of Common European Interest” (IPCEI) in microelectronics. The EC’s microelectronics IPCEI focuses on expanding the continent’s industrial production capabilities; the research fab, according to its organizers, will help drive that effort forward by providing a resource for the requisite accompanying R&D.

“The cooperation of a total of 13 research institutes and more than 2,000 scientists is already the world’s largest pool for technologies and intellectual property rights within the area of smart systems,” the research fab’s press announcement concluded. “This new form of cooperation will make a major contribution to strengthening European industry’s competitiveness internationally.”