Fund could aid competitiveness of electronic design in Scotland

Engineers at Glasgow and Edinburgh universities have secured £470,000 in funding for a project to improve the competitiveness of the Scottish electronic-design industry.

The money has been awarded by the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) to a partnership between the two universities and 14 industry collaborators, including Wolfson Microelectronics, Gold Standard Simulations, IBM and Selex.

The ’Statistical Design and Verification of Analogue Systems’ (StatDes) project aims to improve the design of electronic and electrical systems, and will specifically look at the problem of statistical variability in transistors.

The project will transfer knowledge gained in the NanoCMOS project — an initiative funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council that tackled variability in digital systems — to electronics-design companies in Scotland.

The ever-increasing performance of silicon chips is largely due to the increasing miniaturisation of transistors — the building blocks of electronic circuits. However, as transistors become smaller, tiny variations and flaws in their structure have an ever greater effect on their performance.

Engineers at Wolfson Microelectronics and IBM will work with the StatDes academic team to develop tools for analysing analogue systems — such as transmitter and receiver circuits — using advanced simulation technology and tools provided by Gold Standard Simulations (GSS), a spin-out company from Glasgow University.

Prof Asen Asenov, James Watt chair in electrical engineering at the College of Science and Engineering at Glasgow University, said: ’While many people may think of electronic devices as being inherently digital, the real world remains a stubbornly analogue place. Analogue systems are extremely sensitive to variability and we must tackle this issue for the electronic systems of the future.’

The first phase of the project will bring the benefit from the knowledge gained by the Glasgow and Edinburgh university researchers to Wolfson Microelectronics and Gold Standard Simulations, while later phases will see information being disseminated to other electronics manufacturers, including Freescale, Elonics, Inside, Ateeda and Dukosi.

At the end of the project, the partners hope that an industry-focused research centre can be established to sustain the partnership in the future.