Microelectronic device technology
Research into electronic devices for processing information, including new applications, new materials and the integration of novel technologies into electronic components. This research area also includes devices based on integrating electronics with computational state variables beyond electronic charge alone, for example spin polarisation. It links to other research areas in relation to the integration of electronics with photonics, radio frequency and microwave technology, and quantum technology. This area includes development of novel devices using complementary metal–oxide–semiconductor (CMOS)-compatible technology.
We aim to maintain the size of this area as a proportion of the EPSRC portfolio. This strategy recognises the area’s importance as a key enabler for most industrial sectors; developments in Microelectronics Device Technology are likely to continue to enable advances across Information and Communication Technologies (ICT). Microelectronics Device Technology is an evolution of previous research areas CMOS Device Technology and Non-CMOS Device Technology, and builds on previous strategies for those areas.
By the end of the current Delivery Plan, we aim to have:
- Researchers making contributions to the EPSRC cross-ICT priorities of Safe and Secure ICT and Future Intelligent Technologies, via work on the security and reliability of devices and on technology to enable lower power consumption, faster communication and on-node processing
- A community with stronger links to physical sciences research areas, to draw on advances there and create the next generation of microelectronics devices
- Researchers continuing to integrate new functionality into electronic devices to further extend performance
- Researchers addressing the challenges of handling power efficiently
- Strong links between researchers in this area and the new Compound Semiconductor Applications Catapult, and with EUROPRACTICE (integrated circuit design and manufacture support, funded by the European Union), to facilitate impact strategies. We also aim to have considered other opportunities to improve co-ordination of usage of specialist facilities
Fully addressing many of these challenges will require ambitious interdisciplinary proposals bringing together researchers from fields including materials, devices, photonics, healthcare, manufacturing and instrumentation (as described in our Cross-Disciplinarity and Co-Creation cross-ICT priority).
Throughout the Delivery Plan, we will monitor research training provision (especially in power electronics) and the development of future leaders to ensure that these reflect academic and industrial needs.
As with our previous rationale for CMOS Device Technology, we do not wish to support research aimed at miniaturisation through gate-length reduction (to meet Moore’s Law predictions) as part of this area. Our priority remains novel device research that goes beyond Moore’s Law.Highlights:
Microelectronics Device Technology draws on research from a number of scientific fields, including silicon-based and compound semi-conductor technology, novel aspects of physical sciences and advanced materials. Quality across the area in the UK is generally high, with internationally recognised highlights – as evidenced by UK representation on Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers: Circuits and Systems Society (IEEE-CAS) technical committees and at international conferences. The Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014 exercise rated a large number of publications in the area as 4* and university strategies and investments reflect this strength (Evidence source 1).
Areas of particular UK strength include research into novel functionality in microelectronic devices (Evidence source 1) memory devices, printed flexible electronics, power electronics and materials for electronic applications. This unites a number of different approaches, including mixed-technology platforms (Evidence source 2). Key fellowships and programme grants are funded in these fields.
The UK electronic systems sector is of major national importance; in 2013, electronic systems technology was worth an estimated £80 billion per year to the economy (Evidence source 3). Sensor technology has the potential to transform healthcare and industrial process control; advances in memory technology could also be disruptive (Evidence source 2).
In 2011, EPSRC decided not to support research aimed at miniaturisation of CMOS devices through gate-length reduction, as large non-UK industrial investment in this field meant such research would have been unlikely to have had significant national impact.
There is much engagement from small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with larger EPSRC grants, including spinouts. Companies (e.g. IQE) involved in the underpinning materials science are also supported by strong academic engagement. Power electronics is a sphere of important industry connections, with direct interest from the electronics, automotive and energy sectors (Evidence source 4).
The announcement of the new Compound Semiconductor Centre and Catapult demonstrates the UK’s strategic interest in compound semiconductors, which play a critical role in many aspects of this research area (Evidence source 2). The fabrication infrastructure supported by EUROPRACTICE is a key facility enabling a subset of the community to maintain high-quality microelectronics device research. Scope exists for greater strategic engagement between EPSRC and the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) on this (Evidence source 2). To further support experimental work, there is scope for more co-ordination in the use of specialist facilities (Evidence source 2).
Sector-wide concerns surround training provision in electronic systems, especially postgraduate training; this is not served especially well by relevant Centres for Doctoral Training (CDTs), which alone cannot meet demand. Power electronics could be an area for increased EPSRC attention to support the ‘people pipeline’. Skills shortages are widely reported across the sector and are predicted to get worse (Evidence source 2,3).
Key enabling organisations for UK research include an industrial network, NMI; an academic network, eFutures and EUROPRACTICE (Evidence source 3). This area links to many research areas and Themes (especially in ICT, Physical Sciences, Engineering and Manufacturing the Future). Areas of most current relevance include Microelectronics Design, Optoelectronic Devices and Circuits, Functional Ceramics and Inorganics, Spintronics, Condensed Matter – Electronic Structure, Sensors and Instrumentation, and Manufacturing Technologies (Evidence source 5).
This research area is expected to contribute in the short and medium term primarily to the Connected Nation Outcome. Ambitions of particular relevance include:
C2: Achieve transformational development and use of the Internet of Things
This research area is expected to make a key contribution through developments such as low-power and sensor technology.
C3: Deliver intelligent technologies and systems
This research area is expected to provide hardware to enable faster communication and on-node processing.
C4: Ensure a safe and trusted cyber society
This research area can improve device reliability and robustness to malicious attack.
- Input from the ICT Strategic Advisory Team and REF panellists.
- Community and user engagement (individual and group feedback).
- Electronic Systems Challenges & Opportunities (ESCO), A Blueprint for UK Economic Growth (PDF), (2013).
- Power Electronics UK, Consultation Green Paper (PDF), (2014).
- Analysis of EPSRC application and student data.
Research area connections
This diagram shows the top 10 connections between Research Areas within the EPSRC research portfolio. The depth of the segment relates to value of grants and the width of the segment relates to the number of grants shared by those two Research Areas. Please click to see the related Research Area rationale.
Visualising our Portfolio (VoP)
Visualising our portfolio (VoP) is a tool for users to visually interact with the EPSRC portfolio and data relationships.
EPSRC support by research area in Microelectronic device technology (GoW)
Search EPSRC's research and training grants.