x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

ATIC to launch microchip research centre for UAE

Advanced Technology Investment Company plans to launch a new research centre in the Emirates focused on helping semiconductor makers such as Globalfoundries.

Abu Dhabi's Advanced Technology Investment Company (Atic) is launching a semiconductor research centre in the UAE.

Atic, which has already committed a total of US$2.2 million (Dh8m) to research in the UAE's semiconductor industry, is one of the partners behind a new centre to be located at a university in the UAE. The centre is to open in the first quarter of next year.

"It is one of the things we're missing here in Abu Dhabi. There is really no linkage between academia and industry needs," Sami Issa, the executive director leading the technology ecosystem unit at Atic, told The National.

"Whatever research we fund in the country is very close to industry and guided by the industry and relevant to the industry," he said.

Atic owns more than 90 per cent of Globalfoundries, a maker of semiconductor chips, and is working in collaboration with the Semiconductor Research Corporation (SRC) to create the centre. The value of the venture has not been disclosed. SRC was formed by a group of semiconductor manufacturers 30 years ago and supports more than 9,000 students and academics globally who are conducting technological research.

"My visit here [to Abu Dhabi] is to begin to lay the groundwork for [the centre]," said Ralph Cavin, the SRC's chief scientist.

While Mr Issa said Atic would fund and guide SRC on research areas that were relevant to its customers at Globalfoundries, he noted that SRC would be making the decisions on which universities, faculty and students would lead various projects. Atic is a wholly owned subsidiary of Mubadala Development, a strategic investment company owned by the Abu Dhabi Government.

The news comes just before the anticipated release of Apple's latest iPad, which is to be launched in North America this week.

"It's expected to have an incredible display," said Mr Issa, referring to the iPad 3.

"All that requires more computing, which requires more sophisticated semiconductor devices," he said. "Our research in Abu Dhabi focuses on low power, minimum energy to enable packing more and more of these functions into mobile devices."

As a growing number of gadget buyers demand that their mobile devices include sharper-shooting cameras and video recorders, as well as more apps that rely on satellite guidance from the Global Positioning System, they are pressuring manufacturers to create smaller chips capable of running more features. SRC aims to have at least 20 research projects delving into areas that would help semiconductor companies to address these kinds of demand issues.

Research topics that are of interest to Atic's investment in Globalfoundries, and may be studied, include merging living bacteria - which are known to be among the most energy-efficient "computers" around - with silicon chips that would then become ultra-efficient technologies.

Another idea involves finding a way to harness energy from physically moving a phone to recharge its battery. "Imagine if your cell phone [doesn't] need to be plugged in the car anymore, and just by movement, plus heat, plus sun, plus a combination of ambient energy, it refills itself," said Mr Issa. "If we start by not having to charge it for a week, that's an amazing achievement. But if you set your eyes on not having to charge it at all, that's a very interesting dimension we could focus on."

nparmar@thenational.ae

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