Masdar Institute Students and GLOBALFOUNDRIES Achieve Milestone in Establishing UAE-based Semiconductor Ecosystem

September 21, 2018

First Tape Out of 65nm Node from MENA Region Marks Successful Collaboration with GLOBALFOUNDRIES 

Abu Dhabi-UAE: 13 June, 2013 – Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, an independent, research-driven graduate-level university focused on advanced energy and sustainable technologies, today announced that three students have successfully completed a semiconductor chip design using GLOBALFOUNDRIES 65nm process, the first GLOBALFOUNDRIES tape-out from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.

The 65nm wafers, taped-out at Masdar Institute, are expected to be finished processing at GLOBALFOUNDRIES late in July this year. In integrated circuits design, tape-out is the final part of the design cycle before a ‘photo-mask’ is manufactured.

The important milestone reflects a significant step toward Abu Dhabi’s goal to have a UAE-based semiconductor ecosystem and successfully marks Masdar Institute’s collaboration with GLOBALFOUNDRIES, owned by the Advanced Technology Investment Company (ATIC), a wholly-owned subsidiary of Mubadala Development Company. Masdar Institute is one of the very few universities worldwide to have access to GLOBALFOUNDRIES’ 65nm process design kit (PDK).

The three students – Yonatan Kifle, Judyta Tillak and Chen Zhang – were guided by Dr. Jerald Yoo, Assistant Professor, Microsystems Engineering program, on this project. With the tape-out, Masdar Institute has become the first academic institution within the MENA region to utilize the GLOBALFOUNDRIES PDK to design semiconductor circuits from scratch.

Dr Fred Moavenzadeh, President, Masdar Institute, said: “The students have achieved such an accomplishment in advanced technology in collaboration with GLOBALFOUNDRIES, our industry partner. This remarkable achievement reflects the support of the country’s leadership and the quality of learning that our faculty provides. The students and the faculty deserve to be congratulated and we hope to see similar feats in the future.”

Mohamed Lakehal, Senior Manager of Technology Enablement at GLOBALFOUNDRIES Abu Dhabi, said: “PDK access, especially below 65nm is strictly controlled and very few universities currently have the ability to conduct research at GLOBALFOUNDRIES. We provided access to students of Masdar Institute because of the global status of the research-based institution, its renowned faculty and talented students. What the students have achieved is remarkable and we hope this will pave the way toward establishing a robust semiconductor ecosystem in the UAE.”

Technically, designing in 65nm node and below (45, 32, 28nm and others) is different from 90nm and above. The designing requires more sophisticated timing verification, leakage control and variation-resilient strategies, as well as aggressive power control. Generally, companies have a dedicated team just for dealing with such hurdles. However, what is remarkable with Masdar Institute is the capability for both front-end (design) and back-end (verification and iteration) design. Masdar Institute was able to successfully achieve the tape-out with only students because of the support from GLOBALFOUNDRIES engineering teams in Abu Dhabi and worldwide.

Dr. Jerald Yoo said: “The successful tape-out in GF 65nm is indeed a huge leap toward the UAE semiconductor ecosystem that comprises consumers, industry and academia within the field of ‘fab/fabless design firm/design house’. The most important factor that enables such an ecosystem in the UAE is to attract ‘industry’ to the country or have start-up ventures. And in order to do so, the first and the foremost step is to have trained engineers who are capable of doing practical design and the collaboration with GLOBALFOUNDRIES has fueled the design progress at Masdar Institute to achieve this.”

According to IC Insights, a market research firm, GLOBALFOUNDRIES enjoyed a 31% revenue increase in 2012, driven by its success in attracting new IC foundry customers.

Serving as a key pillar of innovation and human capital, Masdar Institute remains fundamental to Masdar’s core objectives of developing Abu Dhabi’s knowledge economy and finding solutions to humanity’s toughest challenges such as climate change.

Established as an on-going collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Masdar Institute integrates theory and practice to incubate a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship, working to develop the critical thinkers and leaders of tomorrow.  With its world-class faculty and top-tier students, the Institute is committed to finding solutions to the challenges of clean energy and climate change through education and research.