Special Action in Microelectronics for Portugal: Acç o para o Acesso da Indùstria a Circuitos Integrados

AICI - 5691

Keywords ASICs, SMEs, FPGAs, Technology Tansfer, Portugal

Start Date: 16-OCT-90 / Duration: 36 months

[ contact / participants ]

Objectives and Approach

The Special Action for Microelectronics in Portugal is known in Portugal as Project AICI, an acronym that translates into "Action for the Access of Industry to Integrated Circuits". The objectives are to promote the use of ASICs by Portuguese SMEs, increase their awareness and ability to exploit technological developments in microelectronics, and enable them to participate in European Union research programmes.

In fact, Portuguese SMEs have not hitherto participated to any great extent to Union programmes in microelectronics. Their knowledge of such programmes was insufficient, and there was a lack of engineering skills to develop and update the new technologies. AICI aims to improve this situation by demonstrating examples of successful technology transfer. There exist numerous potential product applications for SMEs, from supplying large electronic companies to manufacturing of products for niche (but global) markets. This requires however proper technology transfer and participation in research projects.

The AICI consortium combines different types of expertise. INESC, the co-ordinating partner, has the technological know-how and the basic services needed to set up the organisation. The Portuguese universities are represented by groups working at INESC - the Instituto Superior Tecnico (IST), from Lisbon, and the Faculty of Engineering of University of Porto (FEUP) - and by the University of Aveiro. TECMIC is a commercial design house, ANIMEE is the national association of electrical and electronics manufacturers, and CHALLENGE is a company offering technological consultancy services.

Progress and Results

The initial phase of AICI concentrated on setting up the basic services and defining the internal organisation of the project. Simple and efficient procedures were established to manage the relations between design centres, silicon providers and industrial companies. A flexible and efficient management scheme was put in place and proved to be one of the most important assets of the project.

An intensive effort of information dissemination took place to inform SMEs of the planned objectives and of the mechanisms for its operation. This campaign involved visits to SMEs (the project's database includes today close to 300 SME entries), participation in industrial exhibitions (two per year, one in the north and the other in the south of Portugal), radio spots, workshops (four up to now) and training courses (five up to now, including ASIC and FPGA design). Also part of this effort was the organisation of a considerable number (seven so far) of meetings at regional branches of industrial associations with representatives of SMEs located outside the regions of Lisboa, Porto and Aveiro.

Showing results and being able to publicise "success stories" was soon considered by AICI to be both a goal in itself and a means to reach that goal. The project has already financed a total of nine demonstrators and is analysing further proposals. It is believed that these examples will contribute to an increasing success in a continuation of the project.

In the future, the whole issue of technology transfer needs to be addressed in a broader and more comprehensive way. Experience has shown that difficulties for SMEs in taking up microelectronics technologies are not restricted to the design, fabrication and test of an ASIC. Additional difficulties exist, both upstream and downstream, that require an adequate response. System integration, industrial prototyping, product definition, and even market studies are considered as items for which technical solutions and financial support is needed.


Prof Silva Matos
Largo Mompilher 22
P - 4000 OPORTO
tel: +351/ 2-2094020
fax: +351/ 2-31-8692
telex: 15696 INESC P



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AICI - 5691, December 1993

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html version of synopsis by Nick Cook