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Grand Challenges in Microelectronics aim for ‘Moore for less’

Pocket-sized supercomputers and zero power mobile phones are just two of the key challenges which UK engineers have set themselves for the next 20 years.

The goals are part of the Grand Challenges in Microelectronic Design, a scheme funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and co-ordinated by the University of Southampton, which has enabled the UK microelectronic design research community to develop a common vision for the future of research in its area.

Key investigators are Professor Andrew Brown (University of Southampton), Professor Steve Furber (University of Manchester) and Professor Roger Woods (Queen’s University Belfast). Four grand challenges have emerged from a number of community meetings which the investigators believe will keep the UK at the forefront of electronics for the next 20 years.

They propose to:

Build an electronic brain – a computer inspired by the principles of operation of biological brains;

Develop pocket-sized supercomputers which will deliver as much computing power as a whole building of today’s machines, as part of a drive to deliver

‘Moore for less’ (Moore’s Law describes the exponential year-on-year growth in the number of transistors available on a silicon chip);

Create a mobile phone which will not need batteries but will use renewable energy sources;

Embark on a ‘Silicon meets life’ initiative, through which they plan to develop transparent interfaces between living organisms and electronics allowing active prosthesis and biometrics.

‘We have pulled together some of the best brains in the UK in this field to address some of the long-term challenges so that we can boost our input to the knowledge economy.’ said Dr Peter Wilson, one of the researchers on the project at the University of Southampton’s School of Electronics & Computer Science (ECS).

Professor Steve Furber added: ‘The UK has great strengths in microelectronic design, and the Common Vision activity has provided a focus for the high quality but distributed academic research. From the outset we have involved industrial researchers in our workshops and there has been a very positive reaction to what we have proposed. The next phase is to bring this to the attention of the wider industrial community.’

The grant ended in November and the organisers are now seeking feedback on their proposals and devising plans to move the challenges forward.

Helene Murphy | alfa
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