The Commercial Court of Paris is considering 12 bids for the former LFoundry wafer fab in Rousset and its assets -- one from General Vision Inc. and 11 others from brokers who wish to acquire the chipmaking equipment and sell it on. The decision to sell the assets to one bidder or another is expected this week or next.
The proposal from neural networking chip company General Vision is the only one that offers a manufacturing future for the site, near Aix-en-Provence, which employed 600 people at its closing and was put into liquidation on December 26, 2013. (See Plan to reopen Rousset fab requires investors.)
However, representatives of former employees there have told the judge of the court that they support a tender that would dismantle the site and move the equipment to Brazil, according to reports. One argument given was that the General Vision plan was unlikely to succeed because it had not managed to secure significant state or third-party support.
General Vision, of Petaluma, Calif., is a US company led by expatriate French experts in computer vision and neuromorphic computing, including Philippe Lambinet, formerly a corporate strategy officer at STMicroelectronics NV and general manager of ST's digital sector.
General Vision is proposing to use the Rousset site to set down neuromorphic chips and image sensors on glass substrates in a joint technology development with Japanese company Asahi Glass, under a project called NeuroMem. Such assemblies could include a million neurons in a system that would function like the human visual system and recognize objects in visual inspection and robotic applications.
General Vision has presented its plan to former employees at Rousset and said that, if the liquidator accepts its proposal, it would need 120 employees by the end of 2014. It would take 8,000 square feet of the site to begin work with some of the equipment. The plan is to retain a limited amount of foundry business for old customers of LFoundry. Over time General Vision would hope to expand manufacturing of its own neuromorphic products and return the site to the levels of employment when it was shuttered.