DARPA cuts $15.5M check for edgy semiconductor development

Investment part of DARPA-SRC STARnet advanced electronics research effort

Credit: DARPA

Looking to keep the US at the cutting edge of semiconductor research and development, DARPA said it awarded $15.5 million to one of the key companies advancing such technology, Microelectronics Advanced Research Corporation (MARCO).

MARCO is part of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and Semiconductor Research Corporation (SRC)-backed Semiconductor Technology Advanced Research Network (STARnet). DARPA and the SRC began Starnet in January 2013 with an initial five-year $194 million investment.  Starnet centers each typically will get more than $6 million annually for up to five years.  MARCO is a wholly-owned subsidiary of SRC.

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STARnet is a nationwide network of university research centers  -- University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, University of Michigan, University of Minnesota, Notre Dame, University of California at Los Angeles and University of California at Berkeley - and others that have as their primary goal to discover "solutions to the intractable problems that are forecast to lie in the future of integrated circuit progress and to lay the foundations for microsystems innovations once the improvements associated with Moore's Law are exhausted," according to DARPA.

As part of the STARnet program, the universities typically have centers addressing different subject matters. The research covers a range of topics including interconnects, memory, processors, and related topics including scalability and energy efficiency.

The University of Michigan will focus on circuit fabrics for 3D interconnects and memory. The University of Minnesota will take on spintronics, which is considered by IBM as the basis for cheaper memory and storage in the future. UCLA will focus on atomic scale materials for next-generation chips, Notre Dame will tackle integrated circuits for low-power devices, and the University of Illinois will focus on nanoscale fabrics. Berkeley will focus on technology that could be the backbone for distributed computing across smart cities.

“The goal of this program is to create/continue a nationwide network of multi-university research centers that will keep the US Department of Defense and US semiconductor and defense systems firms at the forefront of the global microelectronics revolution. These centers will focus on discovering solutions to the intractable problems that are forecast to lie in the future of integrated circuit progress and to lay the foundations for microsystems innovations,” DARPA stated.

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