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Where is ARM on the Imec landscape?

Posted: 31 May 2011 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Imec-ARM partnership? FinFETs? graphene?

Imec is staging its annual Imec Technology Forum at the Sheraton airport hotel in Brussels. And what better way could there be to show how big the European research institute is on "ecosystem," in other words, how well-connected it is, than a slide shown by CEO Luv Van den Hove, one with over 100 company logos on it?

So when I met Warren East, CEO of ARM, in one of the coffee breaks I was reminded that the pioneer of that type of slide in our industry was Robin Saxby when he was CEO of ARM. It also reminded me that ARM's logo had been conspicuous by its absence from Van den Hove's slide, a strange situation for a significant company such as ARM.

East acknowledged that ARM is not involved with Imec in terms of funding research but said that is fine as his company is an intellectual property licensor. East said ARM is close to the fabless companies and to the foundries, and it is natural for them to partner with Imec to research manufacturing technologies. But of course manufacturing and design are inextricably linked these days and it is necessary that ARM is up to speed.

When asked if his attendance meant ARM would be getting closer to Imec, East said "No" but that ARM's work in physical IP licensing and other issues meant that ARM is interested in topics, such as FinFETs and graphene.

FinFETs are the technology much-researched by Imec and now being introduced by Imec research partner Intel at the 22nm node, but which the rest of the semiconductor industry is not slated to use until they build on 14nm manufacturing processes. The use of FinFETs is expected to provide 20 to 30 percent power savings compared with the planar alternative. East acknowledged that this appears to give Intel an advantage in manufacturing for low-power applications if, perhaps, a temporary one.

And if it seems strange that ARM's CEO is doing diligence at the Imec Technology Forumrather than CTO Mike Muller or more hands-on engineers. Well maybe he is not only here for the slides but also to network with senior executives from licensees who were presenting. These included Chilhee Chung, head of semiconductor R&D at Samsung, and John Chen, vice president of technology and foundry management at Nvidia Corp.

And the consummate professional that East is, I would not put it past him to try to sign up an additional license or two in the breakswhen he can get away from me.

- Peter Clarke
??EE Times

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