Two Regional Entities Vie To Help RRPC Members Seeking SEMATECH Opportunities

SEMATECH Means Opportunity

Regional optics, photonics and imaging companies have been trying to reach out to Albany Nanotech since the school’s inception. To date, UA staff have been unwilling to host meetings of a technical nature with RRPC / New York Photonics members under our own auspices, and have encouraged companies to participate in technology fairs held in the Albany Nanotech atrium.  This has been frustrating.  The usual feedback we hear from participants in those small outreach efforts and technology fairs has been less then impressive. None of these efforts have resulted in real contracting opportunities of the sort we have experienced through our efforts with Brookhaven National Laboratory, for example.

Our region now has two organizations in a position to change that relationship for the better.  STC MEMS in Canandaigua (once known as Infotonics) became part of  the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering (CNSE) of the University at Albany last year.  Albany Nanotech, the New York State Center of Excellence in nanotechnology is also located at CNSE.  Technically their name is now the Smart System Technology and Commercialization Center of the State University at Albany College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering.  One way to think of it might be that STC MEMS is interested in, and is actually developing real contract manufacturing work with OEM’s, whereas Albany Nanotech is interested in cutting edge R&D with the big names in the semiconductor industry, and under the auspices of SEMATECH.  This may be an oversimplification, but we have to try to understand the relationship somehow.

Background on SEMATECH

SEMATECH (from “semiconductor manufacturing technology”) is a not-for-profit consortium that performs research and development to advance chip manufacturing. SEMATECH’s core mission is to ensure the continued advancement of its member semiconductor manufacturing companies through support of next generation speculative research and by enabling the infrastructure and supply chain to create production capability according to the demand of market forces.

SEMATECH was formed in 1987 as a partnership between the United States government and 14 U.S.-based semiconductor manufacturers.  Its mission was to solve common manufacturing problems and regain competitiveness for the U.S. semiconductor industry that had been surpassed by the Japanese industry in the mid-1980s. A number of cities competed fiercely to have SEMATECH locate in their region with incentive packages in the hundreds of millions of dollars.  In 1987 Austin Texas was selected.

In 1996, SEMATECH stopped receiving matching funds from the U.S. government and began accepting international members.  Today the consortium includes all of the major semiconductor manufacturers in the world.  It is a global consortium.  In 2002, New York State used $160 million in incentives to convince SEMATECH to set up a $350M R&D center for advanced lithography in Albany.  It is located on the SUNY campus at the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering.

The STC MEMS and CEIS Connections

CEIS, hosted at the University of Rochester, changed the meaning of its acronym last year from “Center For Electronic Imaging Science” to “Center For Emerging & Innovative Sciences.”  CEIS, funded by NYSTAR, is a University Collaborative, with other participating universities listed on the website as RIT, University at Buffalo, Cornell and Columbia.  Note that Albany Nanotech is not listed.  This can lead to some confusion, but with two entities in our region active with SEMATECH, regional companies now have two possible avenues through which to identify research areas where their expertise may be able to add value.  This can only be good for RRPC / New York Photonics companies.

In our region, STC MEMS has been leading the effort to promote the involvement of firms and institutions across western New York with SEMATECH.  Now, CEIS is leading a concurrent effort.

The Snowballing Opportunity

The first phase of SEMATECH’s activities focused on keeping and eventually growing the semiconductor industry in the United States.  Phase two focused on the development of finer lithography for smaller nodes.  In both of these phases, the innovation and development needed to achieve these broad goals was too expensive for any one SEMATECH member to accomplish alone, thus resulting in this collaborative approach.  Now developing their third phase of activities, a strategic initiative includes involving more Rochester-area firms and institutions, representing technologies such as optics/photonics, biomedical diagnostics, metrology and other affiliated technologies. As part of CNSE, STC MEMS is leading an effort in our region to ensure that the appropriate fit is achieved for SEMATECH as it expands its focus, aligned with the demands of its key members, to reduce the time from innovation to manufacturing.

There has been over $15 billion invested in nanoscale semiconductor manufacturing in New York State’s Capital District region over the past several years, with several billion coming from the State Government.  This makes the Capital District the leading center of advanced semiconductor research and development in the world. There remain, however, serious challenges in transferring the technology being developed into high volume manufacturing, putting the state’s investment at risk. Many of these challenges involve optics and imaging.  There are also significant opportunities in the application of photonics and three-dimensional packaging to increase the speed and reduce the power consumption of next generation integrated circuits.  New York’s Finger Lakes region has some of the worlds most advanced capability in these areas.  The combination of the Capital District’s nanoscale technology with the Finger Lakes “Nano-Photonics” technology can mitigate the risk for the state’s investment in the Capital District and be an economic boom to the Finger Lakes region.

This year, CEIS got involved with promoting SEMATECH opportunities.  On October 6th and 7th, a high level delegation from SEMATECH met with academic, economic development and industry representatives in Rochester to discuss synergies that exist between the nanoscale manufacturing in eastern NY and the photonics resources in the Rochester region.  Photonics and imaging play key roles in semiconductor technology.  Many of the most challenging problems associated with fabricating nm scale chips involve imaging.  And on-chip optical interconnects will begin to replace copper to enable faster and more power efficient integrated circuits.  The outcome of those meetings was a sense by both parties that very significant synergies exist, and that near term investments in building a SEMATECH presence in Rochester are warranted. The technical and intellectual assets of Rochester and the Finger Lakes region are in perfect alignment with the needs of this industry and thus there exists the potential for huge economic impact to our region, easily hundreds of millions of dollars and many thousands of jobs.

While exact figures for follow-on private investment and total economic impact are hard to predict with confidence, we may look to SEMATECH’s track record over its 25 year history of bringing economic development to the areas in which it operates as a guide.  Just look at the impact on Austin and Albany.

According to Paul Ballentine, Associate Director of CEIS and a former resident of Austin, Texas (SEMATECH ’s first home base), a move by SEMATECH to expand its presence to Rochester could very possibly be the most important development in this region’s economy in several decades.  When SEMATECH establishes an R&D center, many of the member semiconductor device manufacturing companies, and the partner equipment manufacturers, choose to locate operations in the region.  We have been watching this happen at Albany Nanotech for the last decade.  The Albany region is now home to a multibillion-dollar semiconductor foundry.  IBM has made significant investments into its factories in the Hudson Valley as well.

The magnitude of the semiconductor industry’s investment in New York to date is so large that no single region is able to fully support it.  A major goal of SEMATECH now is to build out the infrastructure and supply chain across the state to support the industry, and Rochester has been identified by SEMATECH as the most promising region in their expansion efforts.  The reason for this interest is clear.  Some of the most challenging tasks required to keep Moore’s Law on track involve optics, imaging, and photonics, and these are areas where Rochester is a world leader. SEMATECH would be basing two of its most important research and development programs in Rochester.

Possible Synergies Between the Finger Lakes Region and Nanotechnology in the Capital District Region

The first program is to develop the photomasks, light sources, and optics required for next generation photolithography, which uses extreme ultraviolet (EUV) radiation.  This work would greatly benefit from the knowledge of lasers, plasmas, and optics in the University of Rochester Hajim School, the Laboratory for Laser Energetics (LLE), and RIT.

EUV light is generated by using high power lasers to create a plasma from molten droplets of tin – sharing much of the technology with the work on inertial confinement fusion done at the LLE.  CEIS, the Laser Lab, and SEMATECH have already had technical discussions on possible approaches.  The design and manufacturing of ultra-precise optical mirrors is another critical need.  Discussions along these lines have taken place with SEMATECH on the use of free-form mirror design developed by Prof. Jannick Rolland in Optics.  RRPC member Optimax Systems developed conformable synchrotron mirrors for use with the new light source being built at Brookhaven National Laboratory.  When Brookhaven staff and RRPC met in 2009, there was no known source for the mirrors.  (see previous blog post)

The second program is in 3-dimentional packaging, which includes work on optical interconnects and integrated photonics.   It has been said that just as the 20th century was the century of the electron, the 21st century will be the century of the photon.  High speed optical interconnects and integrated photonic devices will help solve the challenging issues of reducing power and increasing the speed of integrated circuits.  Once again, the UR has performed groundbreaking research in this area, designing the first 3D chip ever demonstrated.  This early accomplishment was a purely electronic design and there is a lot of research ongoing in the Hajim School and at RIT on 3D chips that integrate photonics and electronics.  Establishing a SEMATECH presence in Rochester would leverage this activity and put Rochester at the forefront of next generation integrated circuits.

The Finger Lakes economy will benefit at many levels from a SEMATECH presence in Rochester. The first level of economic expansion would be the direct investment by the state.  This would be spent to build R&D programs at the University of Rochester, RIT and in theory, local companies.

Thanks to Paul Ballentine, Associate Director, CEIS and David Gottfried, Government and Community Affairs Director, STC MEMS for their input.

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New York Photonics is a not-for-profit organization founded to promote and enhance the New York State optics, photonics and imaging industry by fostering the cooperation of business, academia and government.


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