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Blogs - Will NmI become NMI once again?


Will NmI become NMI once again?

Scotland was still the Silicon Glen of Europe, when in 1995 I heard that the UK was planning to create a National Microelectronics Institute. I got really excited - another IMEC or LETI in the UK I thought – absolutely fantastic news!  The reality though, didn’t match my expectations as the NMI was established in 1996 as a ‘virtual’ institute with no agenda in research but as a networking, lobbying and training organisation.  Still, this was a step in the right direction and Glasgow University became a member of NMI. 


NMI helped me to promote my research on atomic scale CMOS variability simulation. In 2007 and 2009 we organised two editions of the International Conference on CMOS Variability (ICCV) - the first such conferences in the world at the time when ‘variability’ was still taboo in the semiconductor industry. The NMI was showing both leadership and bravery. We managed to bring to London the best expert in CMOS variability from Intel, IBM, ST Microelectronics, Chartered, ARM, Altera, Synopsys, Cadence, Mentor, Solido and others.  


In 2010, following the downfall of the UK CMOS research funding, I founded Gold Standard Simulations (GSS) which created jobs for my 15 postdocs working on CMOS modelling and simulation. GSS joined NMI winning in 2010 the prestigious NMI R&D prize. 


However, NMI was funded mainly through subscriptions from its members. With the advanced CMOS manufacturing fast disappearing in the UK, NMI had to move up in the electronics food chain.  The new NMI electronic industry members had more interest in electronics applications than in Microelectronics. Although NMI continued developing its relationships with Government, it was now representing the interests of its members focused mainly on electronic applications.  For me by losing its focus on microelectronics NMI become NmI and in 2014 GSS left the organisation.


So, what is the future of NmI? I hope that the tide of microelectronics and CMOS thinking in the UK is changing. Perhaps the government now realises how important this sector is not only for the economy but for the safety and security of our country. It is still to be seen how this realisation will be transformed in policies and actions. My feeling is that NmI, now part of TechWorks, can play an important role becoming National Microelectronics Institute (NMI) again. 


There are already positive signs under the new NMI leadership of Jillian Hughes. NMI has now sharper focus on semiconductor manufacturing and supply chain, helping existing microelectronics companies in the UK, and lobbying the government for strategic initiatives, actions and funding in the microelectronics area. Still a lot of the Microelectronic challenges have be addressed including education and training, research, inward investments and public-private partnership and subsidies. It is exciting time and my new company Semiwise is joining what I hope will become NMI once again.

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