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2006 MEMS..in depth - MEMS... im detail



Fife-based semiconductor technology company Semefab is set to become the UK's primary centre for the design and development of micro machines and nanosystems, helping to drive major advances in medicine, drug discovery and defence.

Scottish Enterprise and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) are supporting the company in a £15 million project that will enable them to offer companies open access to a fully integrated MNT capability, from product design and prototyping to product development, testing and qualification. This project is being funded under the UK Micro and Nanotechnology Network initiative launched by Lord Sainsbury in 2003.

The company will specialise in the design and production of Micro Electro Mechanical Machines (MEMS) – tiny sensors, machines and detectors which will be at the heart of microchip technology in the 21st century. The scale of these systems is tiny with many devices having complex structures only a quarter of the diameter of a human hair.

MEMS are currently used to route telephone calls across networks, control the deployment of airbags in cars, ABS breaking systems and the display of pictures across some flatscreen televisions. Future applications will include the discovery of new drugs, controlling the stability of cars and turning mobile phones into navigation tools more effective than GPS.

The project is founded on Scotland's world class electronics manufacturing capabilities and electronics design expertise. Semefab will work with the Institute of System Level Integration (ISLI), in partnership with the University of Strathclyde and Heriot Watt University, to enhance its design capabilities while the purchasing of new MEMs processing equipment will enable the company to offer a comprehensive prototyping service over the next 5 years.

By offering open access to its design and fabrication facilities, the project aims to break down barriers for SMEs within the sector and help drive the development and exploitation of micro and nanotechnology to build a prosperous, world class sector in the UK.

The project will also ensure Scotland has a leading role to play within the DTI's UK Micro and Nanotechnology network, which aims to ensure that the UK can capitalise on the growth opportunities within the global nanotechnology market, which is expected to exceed $100 billion over the next 10 years.

Enabling technologies such as micro and nanotechnology is one of Scottish Enterprise's priority industries and its development will be key to the future growth of the Scottish economy. Helping to establish Semefab as an international centre of excellence will also enhance work currently being done in the wider microelectronics and optoelectronics industries in Scotland, such as new developments at the Alba Centre in Livingston and the James Watt Centre for Nanotechnology in Glasgow as well as the work on biochip devices at the University of St Andrews.

Neil Francis, Director of Scottish Enterprise's Micro and Opto-electronics Cluster, said: ‘Scotland has long been at the forefront of the development of new technologies and we now have a real opportunity to become a global leader in the fast growing nanotechnology sector. This project will not only help Scottish and UK companies to access state-of-the art product design and production facilities, but will also position both Semefab and Scotland at the forefront of the global nanotechnology market.'

Allan James, Chairman of Semefab Group PLC, added: 'We are delighted that Scottish Enterprise and the DTI have decided to place Semefab at the heart of the UK MNT initiative through this major award. We have a great opportunity here in Scotland to coalesce the interests from academia, the Institute of System Level Integration, the SE funded Intermediate Technology Institutes and the Scottish Microfabrication Centre - with Semefab's proven track record in MEMS process development and manufacture.'

Professor Hugh Clare, the Director of the UK MNT Network said: ‘I am delighted that Semefab has taken its place as one of the key nodes in the UK MNT Network. Lord Sainsbury announced the formation of the Network in 2003, and it now represents a £700 million resource to enable the commercialisation of MNT for the benefit of UK industry.'

Over the next 5 years, 40 companies will be able to access Semefab's facilities with 50 new products achieving prototyping, and the project is expected to contribute an additional £53 million to the Scottish economy.

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