Technological sovereignty to counter micro-chip shortage: combining expertise in research and development for microelectronics in Saxony

The economic consequences of the current chip shortage highlight the importance of microelectronics. In order to prepare for the future, technological sovereignty in microelectronics research and development is required, in addition to new production facilities in Europe. This is precisely the challenge that the High Performance Center “Functional Integration for Micro-/Nanoelectronics” is addressing. It combines the competencies of four microelectronics institutes of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft as well as of research groups at universities in Dresden and Chemnitz. This way, the center offers a whole spectrum of microelectronics and micromechanics technologies to both major players in the microelectronics industry and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). SMEs in particular can profit from a low-threshold service through the provision of technology platforms, which allows them to benefit from leading edge technology without the burden of excessively high development cost.

Following a decision by the Executive Board of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, the High-Performance Center “Functional Integration for Micro/Nanoelectronics” (High-Performance Center Micro/Nano) is being funded for another three years. In order to strengthen its transfer activities, the center will receive annual funding of €1 million from the Fraunhofer Society for the period from 2022 to 2024. The High Performance Center will be evaluated continuously and, if the evaluation result is positive, follow-up funding will be provided for a next three-year period. In other words, continuity follows success – a guiding principle of many activities of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft. In the years 2016-2021, the High Performance Center developed cross-institutional technology platforms, an activity which was supported by project funding by the Free State of Saxony.

In the phase of continuation and stabilization that has started now, the focus will be increasingly on the transfer to industry by offering research and development services using these technology platforms. In this context, the High Performance center has created new forms of digital presentation, such as a virtual showroom. “The High Performance Center Micro/Nano has established itself as a valuable partner for industry and is systematically transfering new research results to innovative product development and applications,” says the coordinator of the High Performance Center Micro/Nano Prof. Dr. Hubert Lakner from Fraunhofer Institute for Photonic Microsystems IPMS. A thematic focus of the center’s transfer offer are technologies for integrated multi-sensor networks for the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). Furthermore, the High Performance Center offers a transfer platform for the development and use of micromechanical ultrasonic transducers (MUT) as well as a technology platform for the processing and wafer-level packaging of 300 mm wafers. The services offered to industrial customers range from classic contract research to the provision of demonstrators and prototypes to pilot production.

High Performance Centers were established as a joint effort of Fraunhofer institutes, universities and other non-university research institutes targeting efficient transfer of excellent applied research to industry partners. These centers have clear topical as well as geographical focus, i.e. the participating research partners are located within the same region of Germany.

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