Chip Heavies Open $ 1.4B R&D Center in France

STMicroelectronics, Philips and Motorola ally for smaller CMOS technology using nanoelectronics and 300mm silicon wafers.
Posted February 27, 2003

Michael Singer

Three of the largest semiconductor manufacturers Thursday officially opened a new US$ 1.4 billion research and development center in Crolles near Grenoble, France.

STMicroelectronics , Royal Philips Electronics , and Motorola are behind the facility dubbed the "Crolles2 Alliance." The goal is to pioneer CMOS technology from 90 nanometer processes to 32nm over the next five years and also includes a 300mm wafer semiconductor manufacturing pilot line, which is now beginning operation. Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company is also backing the project. The world's largest semiconductor foundry will help with process development and alignment.

Originally conceived in April 2002, some 450 engineers and researchers coming from the three companies are already working on the project. By the end of 2005, the Alliance said it plans to create more than 1,200 direct jobs on the site and 4,500 indirect jobs in the region.

French President Jacques Chirac was also on hand to help inaugurate the facility.

"This unprecedented alliance, which builds on a ten-year history of successful technological cooperation between ST and Philips and which has now been further enriched by the addition of Motorola, means that three of the semiconductor industry's most innovative suppliers are working together to develop the leading-edge technology platforms that will propel the growth of the electronics industry in the coming years," said STMicroelectronics president and CEO Pasquale Pistorio.

The move to extreme miniaturization of Systems-on-Chip (SoC) is part of a growing need by the consumer, communications and automotive industries. More and more devices are getting smaller and smaller. Devices like DVD players, set-top boxes, personal video recorders, PC peripherals and 3G/4G mobile handsets are all expected to include 90nm or smaller chips within the next 10 years.

The Alliance is a necessary evolutionary step for STM, Philips and Motorola. Intel and AMD have both taken on moving silicon to 90nm and next generations of process technologies including the development of 300mm silicon wafers.

Prior to the opening of the Crolles2 Alliance facility, the Grenoble area already was one of the world's most advanced hubs of high-tech and microelectronic research -- thanks to more than two decades of consistent policy by the French central and local authorities' to encourage public- private partnerships in the sector. The Alliance will benefit from an outstanding pool of competence in the region through close cooperation with leading engineering schools and labs, including CEA-LETI, IMEC, France Telecom R&D and other cutting-edge centers in France, Belgium and the USA.

"Crolles2 is a superb example of a European center of excellence in R&D due to this French region's knowledge and skill base in current and future technologies," said Royal Philips Electronics chairman and CEO Gerard Kleisterlee. "The opening of Crolles2 reflects the Alliance's commitment to investing in growth, meeting customer demands for state-of-the-art systems-on- chip solutions and developing a new standard of pre-competitive cooperation within the semiconductor industry. We believe the leading-edge technology platforms being developed by the Alliance today will drive the emerging convergence of tomorrow's technologies for multimedia and wireless applications."

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