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MEDEA+ Noblanc award highlights improvements in microelectronics applications security and chip-production technology

Two projects – ONOM@TOPIC and SilOnIS – shared the 2007 Jean-Pierre Noblanc Award for Excellence for the most innovative and sustainable project in the EUREKA MEDEA+ microelectronics Cluster.

ONOM@TOPIC+ developed a European smartcard platform for citizenship and mobile multimedia applications that makes life easier and more secure for users while adding value for network operators. SilOnIS combines strained silicon and silicon-oninsulator (SOI) technologies in a single platform for high-performance chips that will speed their introduction into full scale production in Europe.

Smart approach secures e-services

Identity validation, security and privacy are crucial in the modern connected world. Increased integration means smartcards containing a microprocessor and embedded memory can now offer secure interoperability across Europe, simplifying citizen access to fixed and mobile eservices and multimedia content. ONOM@TOPIC+ developed complete hardware and embedded software platforms enabling citizens to benefit from the enormous potential of eservices offered by public authorities and business. The MEDEA+ project developed card-embedded and middleware-oriented functions that make possible deployment of next generation European citizenship cards as well as preparing interoperability between European and worldwide identity projects.

As a result, citizens will be able to carry a smartcard providing access to healthcare, administrative, government and private services such as banking and multimedia entertainment in other countries as the card will be recognised and mechanisms interoperable. ‘We developed new mechanisms to gain knowledge of which services can be hosted on the card, how these services can be accessed and how communication can be established in an efficient way between card and remote server without compromising security for card issuer or user,’ says Jean-Pierre Tual of project coordinator Gemalto.

‘We also studied interoperability between major countries in Europe already in agreement on such a scheme. Some identity projects will be industrialised within two years.’ The project involved all key players from the European smartcard and mobile industries: smartcard manufacturers, chipmakers, handset manufacturers, mobile operators, electronic design companies, biometrics specialists, software development/verification tool companies, security laboratories, services companies and universities.

EUREKA labelling was important because the project was industrially-led with short- to mid-term expectations. ‘We had a strong consortium and knew there could be sharp changes in strategy dictated by the market or by the partners, so we needed flexibility,’ adds Tual. ‘EUREKA provides this type of key and decisive advantage.’

Advanced substrates boost chip performance

Silicon substrates are key to modern electronics components. However, as chips become ever smaller, plain silicon no longer provides the performance necessary. Development of a single platform combining the benefits of strained silicon and SOI substrate technologies in SilOnIS offers much improved performance for future chip generations, boosting the speed at which electronic messages can be transferred while reducing the energy required. Suitable wafers should be available commercially in 2008 for fabrication of devices at the 45-nm half-pitch node and below in line with global industry needs.

‘Close collaboration between advanced substrate manufacturers and chipmakers was essential to match the developments in the two complementary fields,’ says Bruno Ghyselen of project leader SOITEC. ‘Carrying out such a collaborative project in the framework of EUREKA brought additional benefits; sharing the risks and the financing was a real enabler to undertake such an innovative and high risk project. And success ensures a strategic advantage for Europe in terms of substrate technology.’ European substrate suppliers have been able to reinforce their leading position in the high added-value segment of engineered substrates while counterbalancing Japanese leadership in bulk silicon.

Chipmakers have gained early access to innovative solutions that will strengthen Europe’s position in low power and high-performance components. And several metrology and characterisation equipment suppliers have been able to develop specific metrology or specific ways of using standard metrology for this key area.

Sally Horspool | alfa
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