eFutures Academic Community MeetingGlaziers Hall, London, 8 October 2010

Circuit World

ISSN: 0305-6120

Article publication date: 8 February 2011



Goosey, M. (2011), "eFutures Academic Community MeetingGlaziers Hall, London, 8 October 2010", Circuit World, Vol. 37 No. 1. https://doi.org/10.1108/cw.2011.21737aac.005



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

eFutures Academic Community MeetingGlaziers Hall, London, 8 October 2010

Article Type: Conferences and exhibitions From: Circuit World, Volume 37, Issue 1

eFutures is a new hub for excellence in electronics research and its aim is to pave the way for the next generation of microcircuits, thereby securing the UK’s position as a leader in the field. Six of the UK’s leading academics have been brought together to launch eFutures and to establish a network to co-ordinate electronics research in a bid to address major future challenges. It has been funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and the network will provide a focal point for a wide range of electronics research.

The initial meeting of the eFutures Academic Community was opened by Professor Anthony O’Neill of Newcastle University. eFutures would be funded for three years and its objective was to consolidate the academic community engaged in all aspects of electronics systems and technologies research. It would establish a long-term and vibrant sustainable community to exploit its strengths and address future challenges. eFutures would also provide a single voice for the community and help to coordinate and communicate electronics research to the broader community.

Hermann Hauser of Amadeus Capital Partners Ltd then gave a presentation on “The 5th Wave of Computing”. Each new wave had killed off each previous wave, and in the fifth wave, there was currently a battle between the companies ARM and Intel. The first wave was based on mainframes and this market was dominated by IBM. Then came the minicomputer in the second wave and this lasted from about 1965-1998. It offered significantly lower costs and multi-user capabilities. In this wave, the leading provider was DEC. Workstations followed in 1980 and these had high-quality individual displays and storage with smaller hard disks. Networking was via the ethernet. Almost 30 years ago, the personal computer (PC)then emerged and these had now sold in the region of 100 million units making them the most successful wave to date. Again, IBM was initially the leading company in this wave. Most CPUs were made by Intel and the operating systems were supplied by Microsoft. The final wave was based on the mobile phone and its architecture and this was now putting the PC under threat. Dominant companies in the fifth wave were Nokia, Samsung and Apple. The operating systems included Symbian, Apple, Android and Linux. A key to the success of the fifth wave was the ability to use the devices anywhere. In mobile phone architectures, the CPU was no longer the most important device in the unit. Android was the fastest growing operating system; it was free and this was causing Microsoft problems, as the company had lost market share. The key question was why did each new wave kill off the last one? Hauser said that this was due to the increased volumes and hence ability to reduce costs, while also providing new, and many more, applications. As a result, computing was being used much more by everyone. Hauser then compared the PC with the mobile phone. Most entertainment was now digital but, for reading, the printed word was still dominant. This was due to the relatively poor quality of displays to date but this was now changing with the new e-readers that were emerging with higher resolution and better stability. The move from hard disks to solid-state memory was also gathering pace. ARM had been outselling Intel processors for many years and there were now more ARM processors than people in the world. This showed the advantage of the licensing model against the processor production model.

For the future, mobile phone architecture would dominate computing and it had a much wider use case than a PC, because there were many more applications. A key question was what role Intel and Microsoft would play in this new future; it was thought that they would probably continue to have a position via acquisition. A case was then made for business-led TSB administered “Maxwell Centres” to service a multi-billion dollar market where there was already a clear global lead by the UK. A report had been prepared entitled, “The Current and Future Role of Technology and Innovation Centres in the UK”. These new centres would require £50-100 million for five to ten years and there would probably need to be five or six of them. Plastic electronics would be one such subject area for a Maxwell Centre and regenerative medicine would be another.

There were then break out sessions which attempted to gain feedback on exactly what was wanted for eFutures and what form its vision document would take, e.g. should eFutures emulate the European ENIAC approach? A key objective would be to define the scope of electronics research in UK academia. It might also engage in helping to define the future strategy for UK electronics research and to facilitate cross-disciplinary research. The possibility of establishing multi-partner interdisciplinary research would help to bring some cohesion to the community.

The second key note presentation of the day was given by Enrico Sangiorgi, from the University di Bologna and he spoke about “The Success of the IU.net” which is an Italian university network that is similar to eFutures, with a particular focus on nanoelectronics. The group initially started working together in 2002 and the IU.net was established as a legal consortium in February 2005. Members included the universities of Pisa, Modena, Milano Udine, Padova, Ferrara, Bologna and Calabria and, in total, there were about 30 people plus 30 PhD students. More information about the IU.net is available at www.iunet.eu. The research topics covered included simulation, design, characterisation, modelling and various other aspects of nanoelectronics including CMOS and post-CMOS nanotransistors, nanoMOSFETs, nanowires and FINFETs. For example, the group had been looking at quasi-ballistic transport in nanoMOSFET devices and the study of nanoelectronic non-volatile memories. One particular aspect of this work had been a focus on SONOS and NROM memories. They were also looking at the area when “More than Moore” met “Beyond CMOS”, e.g. silicon nanowires in nanosensing, graphene nanoribbons and tunnel FETs and energy autonomous systems. Work was also being carried out on the nanostructuring of solar cells (PVs), where triangular grooving had been applied on the surface of the silicon layers of PVs.

In the afternoon breakout session, Ivor Evan of Cambridge Silicon Radio gave his views on the type of research that was need to support UK industry. One key area needing more work was related to silicon packaging and the related areas of SOC versus SiP. There were various EU funding opportunities via FP7, ENIAC and CATRENE. It was felt that the UK played an important role in ENIAV and AENEAS, which were about much more than nanoCMOS. Most European nanoelectronics projects linked technology, devices, systems and software. Derek Boyd then reviewed the current status of R&D in the UK electronics sector as a prelude to asking how eFutures could facilitate or promote collaboration with industry and or the global market.

The e-Futures project is drawing together world-class research and it represents a new working culture, fostering relationships between teams in universities and forging lasting links with industry and other external organisations. It will be interesting to follow the development of the eFutures programme over the coming months.

Martin Goosey

Related articles