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News | Micro-nanoelectronics
By launching the NextGen project, CEA aims to develop new generations of FD-SOI chips with better energy efficiency. It will ensure the capacity to engineer the most advanced components and maintain French and European microelectronics competitive for the future markets.
Chips are now at the heart of our everyday life, from telecommunications to automotive, health and many other areas. The Covid-19 crisis and recent geopolitical tensions have revealed a major dependency on Asian manufacturers, despite Europe and France being traditionally experts in the field.
Several national and European investment plans, such as the European Chips Act and the France 2030, have therefore been launched to develop the existing ecosystem, and restore both sovereignty and competitiveness. The NextGen project fits into these plans while building the future of microelectronics in Grenoble, in France and in Europe.
This evolution will allow not only for chips that are more efficient, but also adapted to future markets. The investment will enable France to reinforce its industrial sector. It will simultaneously ensure a greater European autonomy, the future of which relies heavily on our ability to innovate and to generate new segments for innovative components.
The NextGen project aims to develop the future of FD-SOI chips, with nodes beyond 10 nm and a new generation non-volatile onboard memory. FD-SOI technology, for which CEA has registered nearly 150 patents, uses a silicon substrate with a buried oxide insulating layer. This design produces very reliable components and saving up to 40% energy consumption compared to transistors manufactured on bulk silicon wafers.
28 and 22 nm FD-SOI components are currently produced in high volume by major industrial partners such as STMicroelectronics and Samsung, and are found in everyday life like Google smartphones. The NextGen project, developed with public authorities and microelectronics companies, must accelerate miniaturization to meet the future needs of European industries, including the automotive industry, communications, wearable devices, smart sensors or IoT objects. All this while continuously reducing energy consumption and resources usage, in line with climate and environmental challenges. To do so, the NextGen project will receive financial support from the French National Research Agency (1) as part of the France 2030 plan.
FD-SOI technology was born at the Grenoble CEA center, which has all the expertise required to develop new generations. CEA, as an R&D leader in microelectronics, is committed to reconcile the technological breakthrough of the 10 nm node and the need for sobriety.
The success of the NextGen project is conditioned by the acquisition of forty new state-of-the-art equipment, similar to what can be found in foundries and high volume Fabs. Following the lab-to-fab model, this set of equipment will allow for a swift technological transfer to industrial stakeholders. CEA’s technological transfer to manufacturers should begin in 2026.
More clean room space will be required for the installation of the cutting-edge equipment. The ground breaking of the new fab construction will happen in autumn 2023. Many investments are preparing the future generation of FD-SOI while offering a considerable technical heritage by keeping CEA’s clean rooms up to international standards.
In terms of employment, the NextGen project will induce the hiring of 200 CEA employees in the Grenoble area. All skills levels will be considered, from operators to engineers. Our industrial partners will also have to increase significantly their workforce thanks to the resulting transfer of technologies and patents. (1) Project with the “ANR-22-NEXG-0001” reference
CEA is a French government-funded technological research organisation in four main areas: low-carbon energies, defense and security, information technologies and health technologies. A prominent player in the European Research Area, it is involved in setting up collaborative projects with many partners around the world.