LONDON — Two of Europe’s key electronics and nanotechnologies research institutes — imec in Belgium and CEA-Leti in France — will collaborate to develop a European hub for artificial intelligence and quantum computing.

As security and privacy issues rise up the agenda in almost every organization, the race is on to process more at the edge and put more intelligence at endpoints. For electronics systems design, most of the major chip companies now offer or are developing deep learning and edge AI devices or intellectual property. The edge AI devices are often complete computer sub-systems displaying intelligent behavior locally on the hardware devices (chips), analyzing their environment and taking required actions to achieve specific goals.

Edge AI is considered now to hold the promise of solving many societal challenges — from treating diseases that cannot yet be cured today, to minimizing the environmental impact of farming. Decentralization from the cloud to the edge is a key challenge of AI technologies applied to large heterogeneous systems. This requires innovation in the components industry with powerful, energy-guzzling processors.

This is where imec and CEA-Leti hope to develop a European center of excellence. The two organizations signed a memorandum of understanding during the state visit of French president Emmanuel Macron to Belgium, laying the foundation for a strategic partnership in AI and quantum computing, two key strategic value chains for European industry, to strengthen European strategic and economic sovereignty.

The joint efforts of imec and CEA-Leti underline Europe’s ambition to take a leading role in the development of these technologies. The research centers’ increased collaboration will focus on developing, testing and experimenting neuromorphic and quantum computing — and should result in the delivery of a digital hardware computing toolbox that can be used by European industry partners to innovate in a wide variety of application domains — from personalized healthcare and smart mobility to the new manufacturing industry and smart energy sectors.

"The ability to develop technologies such as AI and quantum computing — and put them into industrial use across a wide spectrum of applications —  is one of Europe’s major challenges," said Luc Van den hove, president and CEO of imec, in a press statement. "Both quantum and neuromorphic computing (to enable artificial intelligence) are very promising areas of innovation, as they hold a huge industrialization potential.”  

Van den hove said a stronger collaboration in these domains between imec and CEA-Leti would help to speed up the technologies’ development time, providing them with the critical mass needed to create faster impact.

Emmanuel Sabonnadière, CEA-Leti CEO, said the collaboration with imec as well as previous innovation-collaboration agreements with Germany's the Fraunhofer Group for Microelectronics "will focus all three institutes to the task of keeping Europe at the forefront of new digital hardware for AI, HPC and cyber-security applications.”

Imec and CEA-Leti are inviting partners from industry as well as academia to join them and benefit from access to the research centers’ technology —  enabling a much higher degree of device complexity, reproducibility and material perfection while sharing the costs of precompetitive research.