LONDON – Advanced Technology Investment Co. (ATIC), the majority owner of foundry chipmaker Globalfoundries Inc. (Milpitas, Calif.), and the State of Saxony in Germany have agreed to invest $4.8 million in twinned laboratories that will research 3-D stacking of integrated circuits.
The two labs are to be hosted at the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology in Abu Dhabi and the Technical University of Dresden in Saxony.
ATIC is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Mubadala Development Co. which serves as the sovereign wealth fund of Abu Dhabi and Globalfoundries has one of its wafer fabs in Dresden.
ATIC and the state of Saxony have each pledged to invest $2.4 million over two years to establish the labs which will work on topics of interest to semiconductor production. Both sites will be of similar size, initially staffed with 10 to 12 graduate and Ph.D students. Research will focus primarily on three-dimensional chip stacking, a potentially faster and more energy efficient semiconductor technology.
"This working partnership is particularly significant as we work to establish Abu Dhabi as a global R&D hub. The areas of research Twin Labs will be addressing are promising and timely to the industry, and I am confident the intellectual property generated will be of great value to ATIC, Globalfoundries and Abu Dhabi," said Ibrahim Ajami, CEO of ATIC, in a statement.
The Twin Labs agreement follows the signing in 2010 of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between Abu Dhabi and Saxony to facilitate a strong working partnership. The Twin Labs concept was conceived by the R&D working group established under the MOU, jointly chaired by Sami Issa of ATIC and Professor Gerhard Fettweis, Professor and Vodafone Chair at TU-Dresden.
"Microelectronics is the driving force behind a myriad of innovations pushing the economy and society, with 3D integration of chip stacks expected to be the next fundamental innovation push for microelectronics. So, Twin Labs has the chance to heavily impact the local industry and support its sustainable technology leadership in microelectronics," said Professor Fettweis, in the same statement.
In Abu Dhabi a group will work on "Three-dimensional integrated microelectronics for minimum energy design" applied to a variety of contexts including computing, communication, storage and sensing. The Saxony group will work on 3-D chip stacking and the role of trough silicon vias (TSVs) in the back-end-of-the-line. The goal is to design blocks for high data-rate interfaces between multiple chips in a semiconductor chip-stack.
Seems like an academic exercise than an effort that can result in production-ready technologies. I have nothing against PhD's (I am one myself!) but the effort in 3D IC stacking is more a stack design and manufacturing process validation exercise that needs to be conducted with close cooperation of foundries and OSATs.