"We've learned from models in the United States," said Guibert. "We want to be more practical and pragmatic." The U.S.-based alliances Minatec hopes to emulate include: Albany NanoTech in New York and California NanoSystems Institute.
Grenoble: Enfant terrible in France
Noting that Grenoble is known as "enfant terrible" in France, Minatec can get away with "avoiding the rules of Paris," said Guibert.
Minatec’s industrial partners number more than 100. Guibert said 70 percent are French, though 30 are global companies such as Atmel, Freescale, Texas Instruments and STMicroelectronics.
Meanwhile, Minatec is looking at emerging countries with plans to open three technological centers in Vietnam, Brazil, and Tunisia. "While the first project, located in Ho Chi Minh City, will be completed by the end of the year, we are discussing two projects in Brazil, one in El Salvador and the other in the Amazonian area."
Guibert said his role will be convincing local universities to be proactive at the early stages. "Our goal is to give them some advice and guide them in nanotechnology. In this sense, we intend to share our knowledge in equipment, train their staff, and help them to evaluate costs," added Guibert.
Aside from its global outlook, how can Minatec compete with established European R&D centers like IMEC or Dresden?
Guibert said rapidly growing costs for microelectronics and nanotechnology R&D could be prohibitive for other European R&D ventures. He added that some of nanoelectronics R&D activities are moving from Leuven, Belgium, to Philips Research's high-tech campus in Eindhoven, Netherlands. With such a trend emerging, Guibert questioned, "Can they push their R&D projects from the current 12- to 16-inch wafers in the future?"
Dresden could pose a stiff challenge. AMD announced Monday (May 29) a plan to spend an additional $2.5 billion to upgrade and expand its two microprocessor fabs there.
Guibert acknowledged Dresden's strength in chip fabrication, but argued that collaboration between education, academic R&D and industry in Dresden is not as strong as Minatec's.