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CEA-Leti realigns research focus: FD-SOI takes centre stage

Posted: 30 Jun 2015 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share


Two premier R&D centres in Europe, CEA-Leti (Grenoble, France) and IMEC (Leuven, Belgium), have both organised annual open-house events that took place this year on the same dates in June. The scheduling clash wasn't intentional, at least from Leti's point of view, according to a Leti official.

But the two events, Leti Days in Grenoble and the IMEC Technology Forum in Brussels, have drawn, perhaps inadvertently, more attention to the growing rivalry between the two laboratories. More often than not, both Leti and IMEC court the same partners in the electronics industry. At stake are big contracts and government grants.


Leti is located in the heart of the region's innovation campus in Grenoble.

For most U.S. engineers, though, European research organisations, in general, are shrouded in mystery. The prevailing perception is that they're "government-affiliated," big, stodgy labs and built for European companies doing "European stuff" to "get EU funding."

Nothing could be further from the truth, in the European labs' point of view.

While both Leti and IMEC receive grants from the EU and local authorities, they focus on working with industry partners on a global basis. They measure success in the industry contracts that fund their research. For example, of Leti's $360.25 million budget in 2014, $124.96 million was funded by industrial partners.

Leti was born in 1967 to meet the electronics needs of the French Atomic Energy Commission (CEA). Squarely focused on nanotechnologies and their applications, the application research lab today sees its mission as working with industry partners: large companies, small and medium enterprises and start-ups included. "Whether you are looking for new markets or a competitive position, CEA-Leti helps you get there," is Leti's latest marketing tagline.

During the event, EE Times caught up with Marie-Noelle Semeria, who became CEA-Leti's CEO last October. Leti organised this year's Leti Days focused on IoT. It also ran, prior to Leti Days, a two-day workshop on Fully Depleted Silicon on Insulator (FD-SOI).

Marie-Noelle Semeria

Marie-Noelle Semeria, CEO of CEA Leti

Leti, equipped with 200nm and 300nm wafer fabs for prototyping today, pioneered in its labs one of the key technologies in manufacturing SOI wafers, transferred it to Soitec, and worked with ST-Microelectronics in chips based on FD-SOI. Leti has stuck with the FD-SOI project for 30 years, standing by the technology and its industry partners through thick and thin.

Hard lessons of FD-SOI

Leti already spent substantial resources in FD-SOI. Yet it has taken the technology so long to garner industry acceptance (it's still a work in progress). We asked, "What lessons have you learned from Leti's FD-SOI experience?"

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