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imec-Led Pilot Line to Support Early-Stage Semiconductor Tech

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LEUVEN, Belgium, May 27, 2024 — In collaboration with partners CEA-Leti, Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, VTT, CSSNT, and Tyndall Institute, imec will work with European and global equipment and material suppliers to establish the NanoIC pilot line. The pilot line seeks to develop beyond 2 nm systems-on-chip in support of European industry. The NanoIC line is to be constructed as an extension of existing imec pilot line facilities.

The initiative is set to receive an investment of €2.5 billion ($2.7 billion) through a combination of public and private contributions.
Rendering of the NanoIC pilot line that will be constructed as an extension of the already existing imec pilot line facilities at its Leuven-based headquarters in Belgium. Courtesy of imec.
A rendering of the NanoIC pilot line that will be constructed as an extension of the already existing imec pilot line facilities at its Leuven, Belgium, headquarters. Courtesy of imec.
The line is expected to play a “translator” role between semiconductor innovation and the European industry, enabling companies to explore the most advanced chip technology solutions for their future applications, imec said. With the pilot line, imec said that it aims to lower this threshold by offering early-stage process design kits (PDKs). Startups, small- and medium-sized enterprises, universities, and design and system companies can use design pathfinding PDKs for prototyping of advanced technology components on top of commercially available foundry wafer. Foundries and integrated device manufacturers can evaluate innovations in process flows and equipment, for example. This would support derisking for new features before internal investments are made, thereby improving the speed and efficiency of process development, according to imec.


Also, the pilot line will benefit from the development of a pan-European design platform together with access to a network of competence centers offering training and support to boost design skills. The design infrastructure is expected to link the technology and design communities to accelerate development and reduce time-to-market for new products. 

The line’s funding will be provided in part by EU funding programs, such as Horizon Europe and Digital Europe, through the Chips Joint Undertaking and Flanders, with a total of indicative public funding of €1.4 billion. The grant agreement with the Chips Joint Undertaking is currently ongoing and will be signed later this year. Private contributions will come from several industry partners, including ASML, and are set to amount to €1.1 billion. The foundational investment will be leveraged further through strong contributions from the EU and global industry to run projects on the pilot line.


Published: May 2024
Glossary
integrated photonics
Integrated photonics is a field of study and technology that involves the integration of optical components, such as lasers, modulators, detectors, and waveguides, on a single chip or substrate. The goal of integrated photonics is to miniaturize and consolidate optical elements in a manner similar to the integration of electronic components on a microchip in traditional integrated circuits. Key aspects of integrated photonics include: Miniaturization: Integrated photonics aims to...
system on chip
Abbreviated SoC. A single chip containing all the electronic circuits required for a complete, working product. SoCs are similar to microcontroller technology but provide additional components. A SoC for a smartphone can include graphics, audio, video and camera processing in addition to all the microcontroller circuit. By compacting more electronic circuits onto one chip, miniaturizing and creating power efficient technology becomes feasible.
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