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Posted: December 15, 2009

New center aims to be a world-class IC design house focusing on ultra low power green microchips and circuits

(Nanowerk News) In the near future, consumers can look forward to ultra-low powered or self powered electronic devices such as laptops, PDAs and mobile phones. This is made possible with power management and cutting-edge energy harvesting technologies which are critical elements for power optimisation and higher energy efficiency in electronic devices and systems.
Analog IC design is the key enabling capability for power management and energy harvesting. To pre-position the nation in advanced analog and mixed signal design capabilities, Singapore’s new Integrated Circuit (IC) Design Centre of Excellence was launched today at the International Symposium on Integrated Circuits 2009 (ISIC 2009), Suntec Singapore International Convention & Exhibition Centre, by Mr Damian Chan, Director (Electronics), Economic Development Board (EDB).
The S$50 million jointly funded centre by Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and EDB named VIRTUS (Latin for ‘excellence’), aims to be a world-class IC design house, developing key technologies required to design integrated circuits and systems for applications in medical technology, clean technology and consumer electronics.
“Electronics is a key enabling technology for today’s high-tech world. The EDB has identified four new growth areas - green electronics, bioelectronics, plastic electronics and security – and VIRTUS’ research areas are well aligned with the new growth areas of green electronics and bioelectronics,” said Mr Chan.
R&D is an integral part of the electronics industry, with Singapore having the full value chain of R&D activities from component-level IC design and semiconductor process R&D; to system-level product design, firmware development and industrial design. Specifically for IC design, there are some 1,100 design engineers in Singapore, with which 44 per cent specialise in analog, mixed signal and RF IC design. With the global shortage of IC design engineers, especially in the area of analog and mixed signal IC design, Singapore’s differentiating strategy is to train and build up strong capabilities in this domain.
“NTU is pleased to partner EDB in setting up the Integrated Circuit Design Centre of Excellence, VIRTUS, signalling the need for Singapore to groom more locally based IC design houses to fuel and further foster the growth of the semiconductor ecosystem in Singapore. VIRTUS establishment is of strategic national interest and promises potentially high economic yield,” said Professor Kam Chan Hin, Chair, School of Electrical & Electronic Engineering (EEE) NTU. “The establishment of VIRTUS is also in line with NTU’s strategic thrusts, which encompasses building a reputation for world-class research and developing an innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem.”
VIRTUS will also collaborate with world renowned universities, top research institutions and well-known companies in its pursuit of excellence in research and development in IC design and technology.
Among its key partners is Agilent Technologies, the world's premier measurement company and a technology leader in communications, electronics, life sciences and chemical analysis. Agilent is contributing its industry-leading suite of simulation software worth some S$28 million to VIRTUS. NTU and Agilent signed a Memorandum of Understanding today to seal their partnership.
“As the technology leader in electronic design automation tools, Agilent is pleased to collaborate with the Integrated Circuit Design Centre of Excellence, VIRTUS, through the contribution of our industry-leading suite of simulation software,” said Rob Young, General Manager at Agilent Technologies Singapore. “Using our design simulation software, the centre’s IC designers will reduce the time needed to design next-generation integrated circuits that will consume less power and have more features packed into a smaller footprint. This means the Centre can speed up the commercialisation of the integrated circuits to be used in end products from mobile phones to space shuttles.”
Apart from its primary focus in design, innovation and enterprise, VIRTUS is also committed to train more than 100 postgraduate students and researchers in the next five years.
Located at NTU, VIRTUS is expected to be operational in first quarter 2010 and will boast a team of at least 20 top notch scientists and researchers within the next five years. Professor Yeo Kiat Seng, Head, Division of Circuits & Systems, EEE, NTU is currently VIRTUS’ Interim Director.
Source: NTU
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