GF is the Partner of Choice for University Collaborations

by Gary Dagastine 

One of GlobalFoundries’ (GF’s) strategic strengths is its robust university network, which is differentiated in the semiconductor industry by the extent and diversity of its academic partnerships. This ecosystem is made up of technical collaborations with leading professors on research and development (R&D) projects, institution-level strategic partnerships with select universities, and a wide range of workforce development programs aimed at preparing and training the semiconductor workforce of tomorrow. 

The cornerstone of GF’s university ecosystem started several years ago, when the company began a highly successful University Partnership Program (UPP) to cultivate mutually beneficial R&D partnerships with professors who are world experts in technical disciplines relevant to GF’s end markets. GF works with the professors, gives them access to its differentiated technologies, provides engineering support, and lets them and their students tape-out, or produce, their work on GF’s multi-project wafer (MPW) runs. 

In return, GF receives valuable technical feedback, has learned many different ways in which its platform technologies can be used to create innovative solutions for many applications and has trained hundreds of students on their technologies  

Participation has grown to more than 70 professors and about 400 students at 60 universities worldwide. It has opened up opportunities for them to speak at some of the world’s most important technical conferences and to publish some 500 peer-reviewed papers. The program is overseen by GF Labs, which leads the company’s R&D efforts. 

GF’s academic partners are highly enthusiastic about the program. This includes Profs. James Buckwalter and Clint Schow at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), who are longstanding partners of GF. The professors have several ongoing research projects, including work related to boosting the performance of chips with silicon photonics and the heterogenous integrated with mmWave electronics. Thier research teams include a range of UCSB students. 

“I’ve graduated more than 30 Master’s and Ph.D. students over my career, all of whom have used GF’s technologies, and they take that knowledge with them to their employers,” Buckwalter said. “I think it produces students who are well-equipped to go out there and make a big difference in the industry, and of course, all of them will be familiar with the GF technologies that make it possible,” added Schow. 

The program has also led to many valuable internship and employment opportunities for students, who gain great familiarity with GF’s technologies in the course of their studies. Sometimes GF’s customers are part of these projects, too, which gives students opportunities they may not otherwise have had. 

For example, Prof. Frank Ellinger’s research group at Technische Universität Dresden, one of Germany’s leading technical universities located near GF’s German fab, includes Ph.D. students working on 22FDX-based 77 GHz circuits for automotive radar. He said, “We educate diploma, masters, and Ph.D. students at TU Dresden, who are important as a pool of skilled personnel for GlobalFoundries here, as well as for other companies in Silicon Saxony which are GF customers.” 

GF’s Evolving, Expanding Institutional Relationships 

At the technology level, the evolution of AI, the Internet of Things (IoT), 5G wireless communications and many other technologies has demonstrated the importance of advanced, differentiated solutions for these fast-growing areas versus traditional transistor scaling. 

At the industry level, meanwhile, the need for reliable and robust supply chains, and to find and train the technical talent needed in the coming years, have become more critical than ever before. Addressing them has become an urgent priority given the push to expand semiconductor manufacturing in the U.S. and in other geographies. 

Finally, at the societal level, the Covid-19 pandemic has led to great changes in how we live, work and play. This “New Normal” has highlighted the importance of semiconductors to modern life, because chips are the building blocks of the electronic devices we rely on every day. 

To address these larger issues, different types of collaborations with the academic world are needed. Therefore, building on the success of the original partnership program with professors which continues to strengthen, GF’s Strategic University Partnership model was formed. It is the home for all of GF’s R&D-focused academic and institutional relationships and initiatives, and is part of GF Labs, which drives all of GF’s technology advancement efforts. 

Building on Success 

Gregg Bartlett
GF Chief Technology Officer

“The success of our original University Partnership Program has made us the partner of choice for universities, as they vie for the billions of dollars the U.S. government is making available to grow the semiconductor industry in the U.S.,” said Gregg Bartlett, GF’s Chief Technology Officer who oversees GF Labs. “The transition of technologies out of academia and into industry is a well-paved road, and it is our very deliberate intent to continue scaling up and evolving our institutional collaborations in a way that addresses our business goals.” 

Bartlett serves on the R&D Gaps and Workforce Development Working Groups within the Industrial Advisory Committee for the U.S. Government’s CHIPS and Science Act (the “Chips Act”) as well as the Purdue Semiconductor Degree Program Leadership Board and SRC Governance Council for JUMP2.0. The CHIPS Act will provide $52 billion to boost U.S.-based semiconductor innovation and manufacturing, with $11 billion dedicated to research and development and technology commercialization. 

“The partnership program has really been the bright North Star over the last several years, helping us navigate the academic R&D landscape,” he said. “By giving us access to the diversity of thought of people who are coming at problems from an academic versus a commercial perspective, synergies are created that aren’t possible otherwise, and many innovations have been born as a result. It has led us to think much more broadly and aggressively about where we want to go with our university engagements, and we have begun to move in that direction.” 

As an example, Bartlett pointed to the recently announced strategic partnership between GF and Purdue University to strengthen and expand joint R&D projects, as well as to offer new educational opportunities for students. Purdue launched the first large-scale comprehensive semiconductor degrees program in the U.S. last year, and Bartlett is an inaugural member of Purdue’s Semiconductor Degrees Leadership Board, which advises on the program and its curriculum. 

Additionally, GF recently announced a new partnership with Georgia Tech, to expand collaboration between the two institutions on semiconductor research, education, talent and workforce development. GF is also a member of MIT’s Industrial Liaison Program, and has many other touchpoints with industry-academia partnership programs, consortia, and coalitions. Through partnership, GF is both growing relationships established years ago through its UPP, as well as forging new partnerships with universities and academics across the globe. 

New Ways of Thinking 

Bika Carter
GF Labs Director for External R&D

Bika Carter, GF Labs Director for External R&D, said, “There are many innovative ideas and a lot of creative work going on at universities which can really flex the muscle of our differentiated technology platforms and support our technology roadmap. We are leveraging our experience and existing relationships to think in new ways about how we engage in joint research and other programs, and how we train and recruit talent.” 

Carter said that GF has begun to evaluate and select additional universities for institute-level, strategic relationships, and is creating multifaceted engagement models around them such as it has with Purdue and Georgia Tech. “In some cases, the nature of these relationships will be driven by regional strengthening; in others, by the R&D expertise a university has developed.” 

Many of these partnerships will have a workforce development component, she said, and GF is engaging in opportunities to help build the curriculum in such a way that enhances and optimizes the semiconductor talent pipeline.” Bartlett and Carter sit on leadership committees advising and helping to shape what the Purdue curriculum should look like for educating students from the undergraduate level all the way up through the doctoral level, to help prepare them for careers in the industry. 

“Through this training, students will acquire familiarity and hands-on skills on the very technologies they’re going to be working with when they graduate, and that is good for the students, good for the university, good for GlobalFoundries, and good for the industry as a whole,” Carter said. 

Read more about research taking place on GF technology as part of the company’s University Network collaborations: