Blogs - What is to be done (with CMOS in the UK)?
What is to be done (with CMOS in the UK)?
The philosophy behind the Nikolay Chernishevski’s novel ‘What is to be done?’ is the principle of ‘Rational egoism’. Following this principle in the current CMOS chip crisis may not be the best strategy for the UK. Lenin stole this slogan to ignite the 1917 revolution saying that ‘the people cannot live anymore in the old ways while the government cannot govern in the old ways either’ – therefore, what is to be done is a revolution. Something along those lines can be said about the future of CMOS in UK.
So, what needs to be done? Of course, this question is far above my pay grade and although born in Socialist Bulgaria I am not Lenin. However, old professors (with 42 years of experience in CMOS) are usually allowed to humble and mumble :-)
It is unlikely that UK will be able to resurrect anything close to advanced CMOS manufacturing at least in the near future. The cost is enormous. After investing more than $35B in GLOBALFOUNDRIES Mubadala (the Abu Dhabi oil guys) gave up. To achieve CMOS self-sufficiency (and perhaps supremacy) China is investing hundreds of $billions.
With UK out of EU attracting inward investments form the global chip manufacturers will be difficult. Intel already announced that its future European plants will not be in the UK https://lnkd.in/dxgEZHZw. Knowing the fate of the Silicon Glen, it is also clear that inward investments are not a long-term solution.
Perhaps the best chance of UK is to join forces with EU or with US, or better with both. There are obstacles related to our recent departure from EU and the future of the UK-US trade agreement, but they are not insurmountable. The important thing is for UK to recognise the problems, to develop strategy and to start acting. The first steps perhaps should include clearing the UK pathway to relevant EU projects, crossing fingers that EU will not exclude us from the strategic CMOS area.
However, in the future CMOS relations UK should not be seen as third world country begging for help, but as an equal (or at least equal-ish) partner. For this to happen we need to revive the CMOS technology, devices and design related education, research and entrepreneurships in the UK.
Now I am getting closer to my area of expertise. Perhaps the time has come to establish a UK wide Microelectronics Research Centre – something like the Albany Nanotech, IMEC, LETI, MINATEC, the Tindal Institute, and the Research Factory Microelectronics Germany (FMD). Let be ambitious: not the usual cheap ‘virtual’ centre just ticking a box, but something in bricks and mortar. And please, please not again only packaging and III-Vs. Not full chip CMOS capabilities either but advanced equipment suite that will allow research in both ‘More Moore’ and ‘More than Moore’ domains. A place where the Universities can conduct leading edge research, the start-ups will be incubated and the semiconductor industry will get R&D support.