Sherbrooke, May 14, 2014 – Microelectronics is ubiquitous in our lives: in our smart phones, GPS systems, and hand-held video games with astonishing performance. Knowledge in this sector is growing at a dazzling pace. But the ever-increasing miniaturization of microelectronic chips raises some major technological challenges. For example, low compatibility makes it difficult to put some materials together. In addition, the increasingly high circuit density of some chips causes temperatures to rise higher than a frying pan. As a result, researchers have to create chips that can withstand these extreme conditions. The Université de Sherbrooke has joined with IBM Canada Ltd. in a unique business/university partnership by launching the NSERC/IBM Canada Industrial Research Chair in Smarter Microelectronics Packaging for Performance Scaling. Its objective is to develop several new approaches ranging from robust industrial manufacturing processes to the development of new materials that increase the resistance and reliability of electronic components.
"As a result of the creation of the NSERC/IBM Canada Industrial Research Chair in Smarter Microelectronics Packaging for Performance Scaling, experienced researchers will engage in significant work that will redefine microelectronics," stated Louis Labelle, manager of the Bromont plant. "IBM is proud to take part in this project that will ensure that Quebec and Canada continue to attract the best minds in the country, while keeping us at the worldwide forefront of innovation for years to come."
"Today, we are launching the first of a series of industry management chairs that will enable us to multiply the research partnerships with industry, inventions in the marketing phase, and the swarming of technology businesses," explained Jacques Beauvais, Vice-President, Research, at the Université de Sherbrooke. "This special partnership with IBM," he added, "fits into a vast strategy aimed at catapulting innovation, increasing partnerships by tenfold, and intensifying entrepreneurship. It's version 4.0 of the most original initiatives that we have put into place over the Université de Sherbrooke's 60-year history. We have been working on this plan with our partners and collaborators for quite a few months. We are very pleased indeed today," he went on, "to unveil the first milestone of this initiative, which will continue to be a topic of discussion and which will foster the innovative capacity of businesses and accelerate knowledge transfer towards consumer products."
Packaging technologies must respond to the ever higher performance of electronic devices through the creation of completely new, even revolutionary, technical solutions. To achieve this end, the Chair brings together three complementary fields: packaging-process innovations to integrate multiple 2D and 3D chips; housing designs to balance thermal, mechanical, and electrical performance; and basic scientific advancement of packaging. Each of these three fields will balance production issues, cost improvement and long-term innovation, and scientific progress in packaging. The three holders of this Chair come from industry and academia, namely, David Danovitch, Julien Sylvestre, and Dominique Drouin of the Université de Sherbrooke's Faculty of Engineering.
This Chair will receive funding in the amount of $9.1 million. The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) is providing $2.5 million; industrial-partner IBM Canada Ltd. is donating $2.5 million as well as the equivalent of $2.6 million in goods and services. For its part, the Université de Sherbrooke is contributing $1.16 million, in addition to the $340,000 from Prompt for the first two years of operation.
"As a university-industry consortium in the information-and-communications-technologies (ICT) industry, Prompt is delighted to help finance this Chair. IBM Canada and the Université de Sherbrooke are highly active members of the consortium and this announcement eloquently testifies to their sustained leadership in terms of innovation," underscored Prompt President and CEO, Charles Despins.
Training the Next Generation
In addition to responding to the challenges facing the microelectronics industry, this Chair will serve as leverage in thoroughly training the next generation of scientists and businesspeople. Over the Chair’s term, nearly 50 students will be trained to respond to future needs in this field. "By banking on the collaboration between IBM Canada and the Université de Sherbrooke, we are promoting the insertion of researchers into dynamic networks and contributing to the training of the next generation with the expertise to grow business competitiveness," pointed out Beauvais. Their training will take place in a unique collaborative environment constituted by MiQro Innovation Collaborative Centre (C2MI) and the Interdisciplinary Institute for Technological Innovation (3IT). C2MI, located in the Technoparc Bromont, has facilities at the cutting edge of technology for advanced packaging, operated and maintained by IBM engineers, thereby offering students unprecedented exposure to an industrial culture. Established in the Université de Sherbrooke's Parc innovation, 3IT has a complete array of nanomanufacturing and characterization tools to support the proposed research program.
A product of the Knowledge Infrastructure Program and recipient of funding under the Centres of Excellence for Commercialization and Research (CECR) program, C2MI stands out as a unique model of industry–university partnership in Canada. In the perspective of C2MI President and CEO Normand Bourbonnais, the announcement of this research chair centered on electronic components clearly demonstrates that collaboration between academia and industry is necessary, even indispensable, in order to preserve Quebec's and Canada's leading position in microelectronics. "C2MI will play a major role by making equipment at the cutting-edge of technology available, thereby supporting the chair holders."