IMEC Debuts Industrial Affiliation Program for System-Level Integration

10/14/2004 - IMEC will bring electronic design automation (EDA) providers and integrated device manufacturers (IDMs) together in its new industrial affiliation program on system-level integration. Working together through IMEC, the two industry segments will develop solutions for the increasing number of design-for-manufacturing (DFM) problems.

As semiconductor technology scaling drops to sub-90 nm nodes, the number of technology barriers increases, with only marginal process technology improvements possible. Increasing interconnect delays lead to timing closure problems. Power consumption increases significantly because of thermal heating, exploding static power consumption and increasing energy in the interconnects. These factors make it extremely difficult, or even impossible, to design power-aware systems and applications.

At the same time, manufacturing tolerances in process technology are not scaling at the same pace as the physical gate length of the transistor. This situation increases the variability in device characteristics but also narrows the operating window for correct functioning of individual circuits. This has a negative impact on chip yield. Besides the static variability caused by increasing device mismatch, dynamic variability of device characteristics caused by thermal effects at run-time further narrows the operating window of the circuits.

Through its industrial affiliation program (IIAP) on system-level integration (SLI), IMEC will establish a methodology and supporting techniques and tools to improve the design of robust and better performing ICs despite the limitations of future process technology nodes. The main performance metrics to be addressed are energy, delay and area of the IC. The methodology will be used for the design of low-power ICs typically used for wireless & multimedia applications.

Because advanced wireless and multimedia systems are largely data dominated, memories account for a dominant fraction both in energy and in area. Therefore, the program will focus on providing adequate system design methods and tools for exploring and optimizing memory architectures, memory organization, and memory interconnection network of the SoC. A framework will be built allowing researchers to concurrently explore the impact of technology scaling and static & dynamic variability on circuit and system performance for various system architectures.

IMEC has joined forces with the digital circuit design team of the ESAT-MICAS laboratory of the K.U.Leuven to model deep-submicron technology effects on circuit behavior and to develop circuit techniques to overcome some of these effects. The models will be exploited to explore various architectures trading power, speed and chip area in the most optimal way. The process variability impact will be tackled at three levels:

The system-level optimization will be done in close collaboration with the circuit- and technology-level optimization by interpreting the monitor signals and steering the control circuitry in a proper way.

The program output offers valuable information for EDA providers and IC device manufactures to identify the main technology limitations and how to deal with these limitations by novel design solutions. It also offers to the semiconductor equipment community the means to benchmark the potential of an improvement in manufacturing tolerance on device variability and subsequent circuit and system performance.

About IMEC Industrial Affiliation Programs
The IMEC Industrial Affiliation Program (IIAP) is IMEC's premier R&D collaboration formula for joint R&D between industrial researchers and IMEC research teams. IIAPs focus on a specific topic or technology area. The concept is recognized worldwide as one of the most successful international partnership models for joint development of next-generation technologies.

About IMEC
IMEC is a world leading independent research center in nanoelectronics and nanotechnology. Its research focuses on the next generations of chips and systems, and on the enabling technologies for ambient intelligence. IMEC's research bridges the gap between fundamental research at universities and technology development in industry. Its unique balance of processing and system know-how, intellectual property portfolio, state-of-the-art infrastructure and a strong network of companies, universities and research institutes worldwide, positions IMEC as a key partner with which to develop and improve technologies for future systems. IMEC is headquartered in Leuven, Belgium and has representatives in the US, China and Japan. Its staff of more than 1300 people includes over 380 industrial residents and guest researchers. In 2003, its revenues were EUR 145 million. Further information on IMEC can be found at

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