Leti Days Highlight European Chip Future

It’s funny how things work out. I was due to meet up with Leti, a French R&D organisation, at the recent SID event, as the group was showing a new LED-based microdisplay. Unfortunately, the meeting didn’t happen because of my overload! However, it is based in Grenoble and I was planning a personal trip to the area, so I called the press contact and asked if I could visit? It turned out that there was a special event at LETI during my stay, so I found myself attending the Leti Innovation Days on June 28th and 29th – not what I expected when I planned my trip!

The first day of the event, which was held at the Minatec facility, consisted of keynotes and partner talks, while the second day included demonstrations of technology projects and my interview about the LED microdisplay.

CEA MINATEC P.Conche 1The event was held at Minatec in Grenoble

Some Leti Background

Leti is 50 years old this year as a centre for microelectronics. It was the research group that was behind the start up, in 1972, that eventually became STMicroelectronics. The open days were part of the celebrations of those 50 years of operation. There have been other start ups from research started at the facility. The group has relationships with companies including IBM and Intel in the US as well as groups around the world such as Global Foundries and Applied Materials. There are 5,000 researchers and Leti believes it is in the top three research institutes in its field in the world. Later in the day, the group issued a press release detailing a collaboration agreement with the Fraunhofer IPMS in Germany.

Leti’s Parent

Christophe Gégout introduced the CEA, which is the ‘parent’ of Leti and is 72 years old and was the nuclear energy group, established by French president, de Gaulle, and the CEA is “‘close to the French state”. It has always promoted the imporrtance of microelectronics and semiconductor technology as enabling some of its work.

The first CMOS transistor was just one year old when the CEA started Leti. Other areas researched include the detection of dangerous materials at airports. Improved energy supply is also a big focus, especially as Emmanuel Macron has said that alternative energy is very important for the future of France.

CEA believes that no group has the range of reach in energy, electronics and software that CEA has and this will be helpful with the development of the autonomous vehicle. The Minatec facility, in Grenoble, where the event took place is the fifth largest technology campus in the world and the second largest in France (and also houses HP’s European operations), these days. Grenoble has a big share of the French microelectronics industry.

From left – Marie-Noelle Semeria (CEO of Leti), Stéphane Siebert (CEO of the CEA), Christophe Gégout (Chairman, CEA Investment). Image:Meko

The Themes

The three technology themes of the event were digital technology, the environment and digital health and the exhibition areas were organised around those topics.

Stéphane Siebert is CEO of the CEA and said that this moment is incredibly exciting in technology, with technology leading the development of the world. He sees CEA/Leti being an important bridge between the research community and industry.

Marie-Noelle Semeria, who is CEO of Leti spoke next. She said that there are 64 start-up companies in operation that have come from Leti and the organisation also has 350 partners around the world in academic and industrial areas.

Leti has three principles

  • Transfer technology from research to industry – Match every euro of public funding with at least one euro of private investment
  • Never be satisfied with the status quo and be ready to ‘think out of the box’
  • Think and act collectively – after a big fire a couple of years ago, high levels of colllaboration meant getting back into production in just three months, which needed a huge degree of collaboration.