Overview of Our Annual Forum

Our annual research forum took place recently at the Tyndall National Institute and we were delighted to welcome over eighty delegates to the event. The theme for this year was “The Next Wave of Innovation – Impact Beyond Research” where we showcased our research excellence in microelectronics. We were pleased to see yet again, that the forum continues to be an enjoyable event with interesting talks and poster sessions where students and industry can openly discuss their research projects and needs. We were proud to be able to welcome leaders in the field of microelectronics research and industry experts to speak to the audience imparting their knowledge and insights. Our goal is to deliver high impact microelectronics research across the Medtech, Smartagri and Future Communications sectors.

Pivotal to our growth as a leading technology centre is the development of our researchers into future leaders in the semiconductor industry. The Forum is a valuable opportunity for our researchers and students to interact with our industry partners to present their research and to discuss it in an open environment. We had thirty-three research projects on display across a range of applications and the IEEE SSCS UK and Ireland Chapter awarded prizes for the best posters. The judging panel comprised Dr. Marcel Pelgrom, Dr. Bram Nauta and Bill Hunt, founding Chairman of the Board of MCCI. Winner on the day was the research project titled “Hardware Efficiency Enhancement of Successive Approximation Time-to-Digital Converters” by Jakub Szyduczyński, Dariusz Kościelnik, Marek Miśkowicz, Filippo Schembari, Viet Nguyen and Prof. R. Bogdan Staszewski at UCD.

Our Executive Director, Donnacha O Riordan opened the forum where he delivered his vision for the centre. He discussed how, as we embark on applications driven research designed to make an impact in a world that is becoming increasingly connected, we want to be the first choice for Microelectronics research that enables future products and applications. Fundamental to this is the recognition that microelectronic circuits are at the heart of all technology, driving & powering the Irish economy. Our vision emphasises high impact research outcomes, but beyond that the development of our researchers into independent thinkers and future leaders in Irish companies and in the global semiconductor landscape. We have made great strides with industry engagement and count some 35 member companies collaborating and contributing to the centre. We value this trusted network of industry-led collaborative research, and we commit to timely execution that benefits not only our industry partners, but which contributes fundamentally to a better, more prosperous society.Highlighting our three research pillars; High Speed Transceivers, Power Management and Data- Converters which are driven by the research needs of our industry partners, we will continue to drive forward with our pipeline of research that produces real impact for our industry members.
Donal Sullivan, our Chairman, spoke about our key successes to date including our 41 research projects across the Medtech, Smartagri and Future Communications, with over 35 industry members who drive the research agenda for the centre. He spoke about how we are in the business of producing high calibre engineers who can make a seamless transition to companies as they can hit the ground running and are valued members of staff.
The end of research “by extrapolation”.
Marcel Pelgrom’s talk entitled “Research for a Mature Industry” was a very interesting presentation on how Moore’s Law has perhaps reached an economic plateau. Shrinking only improves die size, but no longer improves performance or price/function and this affects half of the semiconductor industry turnover. The essence was, the end of Moore’s Law is the end of research “by extrapolation”. A key focus for microelectronic research will be on the cross-fertilization of disciplines and pushing the boundaries of what’s possible. There are many applications driving growth in the semiconductor industry and chief among them are automotive and IOT. He spoke about how research centres need to be creative as new ideas originate in a really free environment and they need to find out what industry needs in a creative way.
Government supporting Technology Centres
Carol Gibbons from Enterprise Ireland, shared her insight on “Enterprise Perspective on the Technology Centres Program” and how we have grown with industry and will continue to do so. She highlighted the industry gains from collaborative research especially as we are a hosted centre within Tyndall, close to “fundamental research” groups, relevant to key application areas such as Materials modelling, Electrochemistry, MedTech and Wireless Sensor Nodes. Collaboration with technology centres such as MCCI lowers the risk of engaging in R&D. She was keen to point to how we have grown with the needs of clients and we have proven our ability to leverage our EI/IDA funding.
Impact – the “I” in MCCI
Anthony Morrissey from the Technology Transfer Office in Tyndall spoke about research commercialisation and how it is easy to collaborate with us. He discussed several successful case studies, highlighting the engagement models and flexible IP models. He presented the various options available, and how it is not a one size fits all approach for companies when it comes to engaging with us.
Encoding brain signals for Therapy
We were delighted to hear one of our newest member companies Intelligent Implants, Dr. Rory Murphy Founder and Functional Neurosurgeon speak about “Next Generation Bioelectronics Implants”. An excellent presentation on encoding signals of the brain and signals to power precision treatments. Our research team focus on high impact outcomes in a number of application areas, including Medical Technologies and the MedTech sector will have huge opportunities for research partnerships, given the capability built up in the centre through engagements to date.
Collaborative Thinking
Dr. Ivan O’Connell, Principal Investigator at MCCI brought us through the Core Funded Research Roadmap and spoke about our current research projects we have underway. He highlighted that our roadmap is driven by Application requirements namely in the areas Electrochemical Sensors, High Speed Communications, Biomedical and Smart Agri. He highlighted our strengths are as research centre that fosters collaborative thinking to make impact in IC research design.
Insurance for Innovation.
Dr. Bram Nauta from University of Twente also presented on “Collaborating with Industry in Analog Integrated Circuit Design” he mentioned different engagement models and how it is important that in order to deliver great research it is important that it is aligned with industry needs. One such example discussed was innovations by his group in the area of thermal noise cancelling, and how the techniques were developed which have gone on to become standard in cellular designs. An important factor in the innovation process discussed was the involvement of industry partners, in a field which is very much applied research. They are necessary to define the system boundary conditions – or Application expertise – which enable researcher pose the relevant long-term research questions. The goal being to come up with fundamental soutions for practical problems. Of course, industry also benefit from this relationship in what effectively becomes >Insurance for Innovation.
Electronics in Ireland – A New Dawn
Leonard Hobbs from Midas Ireland presented “Electronics in Ireland – A new Dawn” where he spoke about strength of the microelectronics sector in Ireland where there are over 8,000 jobs within the sector accounting for over €9 Billion of export revenue. MIDAS is the industry association representing the sector counting more than 65 members, and is expanding this remit as it aims to represent the entire electronics systems value chain. This is in response to industries evolution to deliver more complete electronic and software system solutions.
A Few Good Sensors
The final speaker on the day was Dr Alan O Riordan of Tyndall National Institute, with a talk in which he firmly challenged the microelectronics research community to provide sensor interface solutions for his nanowire sensor research. A long-time proponent of electrochemical sensors techniques, Dr O’Riordan leads a team of researchers at Tyndall developing sensors with next generation efficacy and efficiency, and with applications in Smart Agri, Food Production and Food security. One of the challenges often faced in multidisciplinary teams are the difference language and terms used, often to describe the same phenomenon. An important factor in overcoming this, is the proximity of those teams. With electrochemists and circuit designers in the same building, sharing copious amounts of caffeine has enabled great progress towards the commercialisation of this fundamental research. There is however, much work to be done.
Conclusion
The feedback we generated after the event has been more than positive and we were pleased that we could bring together our research teams, students and our industry members to Tyndall to focus on our impacts beyond our research. Numerous examples of successful case studies were discussed throughout the day, conveying just how industry can engage with MCCI, both in an open and collaborative manner as well as in a confidential bilateral engagement designed to leverage some of the numerous research grants available, lowering the cost to them of engaging advanced R&D.