The project offers IC prototyping services, system integration solutions, training activities, and possibilities for small-volume production. In addition, we provide universities and research institutes with access to CAD tools and training.
The electronics industry is massive, valued at an estimated 25 billion pounds in the UK alone. The demand for well-trained engineers outstrips what the universities are supplying and, if the industry can’t get qualified graduates from Europe, the jobs will disappear off to other parts of the world and be lost to us forever.
Microelectronics is difficult. Designs involve millions of transistors that are a few nanometres in size, and getting things wrong is expensive. Modern-day designs are only getting more complex, wanting to achieve things faster, in smaller geometries, all whilst consuming less power. Engineers of today have EDA (Electronic Design Automation) tools to assist them, vastly helping to increase the scope of what is possible in chips, whilst reducing the time it takes to design them.
However, EDA tools are expensive; commercial licenses cost upwards of a hundred thousand pounds. Additionally, mastering these tools requires training and support that isn’t freely available. EUROPRACTICE works with both the EDA vendors and academic institutes to deliver the best of all worlds. We negotiate with the vendors to provide their tools for research and academic purposes at affordable prices and, in turn, take on the time-intensive task of training and supporting the users in the tools.
The vendors end up with future engineers trained in their tools who go on to buy commercial licenses without having to put in the time to train them, and EUROPRACTICE users receive access to industry-standard tools, comprehensive training courses, and tailored technical support from STFC staff who have expertise in their advanced fields.
The EUROPRACTICE project is key to enabling technology used for many UKRI projects and international collaborations. Anybody making microelectronics under a UKRI grant, or at CERN, or teaching the engineers of the future in Europe will be utilising the tools, support, and foundry access that EUROPRACTICE provides.
EUROPRACTICE'S five partners act as the prime interface between customers and technology providers. Each partner offers a unique set of services, such as granting customers access to particular design tool vendors, foundries, assembly, and test houses:
The Microelectronics Support Centre (MSC) has operated and managed the EUROPRACTICE Design Tool Services since 1995, currently supporting more than 600 academic institutions in 43 countries in the European region. The MSC also leads the advanced design flow training activity within EUROPRACTICE.
Imec is responsible for the ASIC part of the EUROPRACTICE-IC service, organizing MPW (Multi Project Wafer) runs in various advanced IC technologies ranging from X-FAB to TSMC. It also offers More-than-Moore technologies with a special focus on MEMS, photonics, and microfluidics.
Fraunhofer provides access to and support for Application-Specific Components. It is responsible for access and prototype fabrication in technologies from ams (Austria), GLOBALFOUNDRIES (Germany, Singapore), and IHP (Germany).
CMP offers EUROPRACTICE customers access to MPW runs in advanced IC technologies from, among others, STMicroelectronics (France), ams (Austria), and EM Microelectronic (Switzerland). In addition, CMP is responsible for prototype fabrication in More-than-Moore technologies from STMicroelectronics (Italy), ams (Austria), and CEA-Leti (France).
Tyndall provides EUROPRACTICE customers easy access to smart system integration and packaging services. The customers can therefore source the complete sub-system supply chain, from devices through to packaging and application prototyping.
For the last 30 years, the EUROPREACTICE project has been pivotal in supporting
the microelectronic excellence found throughout Europe. It continues to evolve in that time, now providing intensive support for start-ups looking to design prototypes, and moving towards supplying access to design tools in the cloud allowing for users to utilise the EDA tools even if they do not have suitable hardware to run them.
For more information, and to find the latest news and updates on the EUROPRACTICE project, please visit our website.
Written by Josh Upton, Microelectronics Support Centre team member.