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Access to European Infrastructure for Nanoelectronics

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - ASCENTPlus (Access to European Infrastructure for Nanoelectronics)

Berichtszeitraum: 2022-03-01 bis 2023-08-31

Nanoelectronics underpins our society’s digital transformation and Green Deal objectives as a fundamental enabler for e-health, wearables, smart agriculture, advanced manufacturing, smart mobility and natural resource management. Nanoelectronics uses advanced materials, nanofabrication and nanotechnologies to solve complex problems with ground-breaking devices and systems underlying next generation information processing, including neuromorphic, quantum and edge computing. This requires sophisticated research infrastructure and expertise across a variety of domains. The EU-funded ASCENT+ programme brings this network together and provides free-of-charge access to world-leading research infrastructure.

Vision
The ASCENT+ Vision is to integrate major European Infrastructures that enables users from across the world to address emerging research challenges and accelerate innovation path-finding in Nanoelectronics.

Mission
ASCENT+ serves as the direct entry point to a European Nanoelectronics Research Infrastructure of global scale offering access to key enabling capabilities in state-of-the-art processing, modelling and simulation data sets, metrology and characterisation, and devices and test structures

The project objectives are:

O1. Consolidate the seamless integration of the infrastructure and provide a simplified user-centric access
O2. Lower the barriers for academics and industry researchers, in particular junior researchers and from SMEs, to address emerging challenges in nanoelectronics with global impact.
O3. Foster a large multidisciplinary user base around the new challenges posed by the Nanoelectronics Technology Drivers of Quantum Advantage, Low-Power/High-Performance and Functional Diversity
Main activities:
O4. Accelerate path-finding from fundamental principles to proof-of-concept and capture the innovation potential
O5. Ensure long-term sustainability of the infrastructure and the ecosystem
Main Activities carried out:

· Integrated all Access Providers - Tyndall, imec and CEA-Leti from Phase 1 ASCENT and Fraunhofer and INL in ASCENT+) through clearly defined access protocols to the offered ASCENT+ Infrastructure.
· Defined in detail the TA/VA portfolio on offer by the ASCENT+ Infrastructure. The full catalogue is showcased online through the ‘Virtual Showroom’. The Virtual Showroom provides descriptions of the processing tools and characterisation equipment, methodologies, expertise, datasets and platform technologies along with use cases.
· Established an efficient and effective process to provide access through a single-entry point. This is facilitated by the Access Interface Team who liaise between the users and the Technical Point of Contacts (TPoC) at each site of the ASCENT+ Infrastructure.
• 66 items comprising over 100 tools for advanced research in micro- and nano-electronics were brought together and were made accessible to the ASCENT+ community of academics and industry researchers. The TA/VA portfolio gathers expertise from physical and chemical sciences, materials and electronic engineering, and information processing technology, already mobilising over 80 of ASCENT+ leading researchers and highly-qualified engineers and support personnel.
• Networking Activities (dissemination and communication) were carried out to build brand awareness, to increase the ASCENT+ Community Network and enhance the visibility of the ASCENT+ offer, and to showcase science and technology breakthroughs by the community as a means to create a common base. The ASCENT+ Membership comprises 645 direct signups, 559 LinkedIn members and 292 Twitter followers.
• Users surveys were set up and the ASCENT+ Flyer and SME Access Handbook were prepared and published. Particular emphasis was put to refine the offer based on user feedback and to address the needs of SMEs, simplifying the message for access. Several engagements were targeted to SMEs through conference booths (e.g. EFECS, Semicon) and presentations at events organised by the Community Network partners (e.g. SiSax Day, MIDAS Conference) and a dedicated ASCENT+ event organised by MIDAS.
• ASCENT+ has already made access easy to 23 junior researchers by offering infrastructure through TA projects to enable 17 PhD and 6 MSc theses. Another 10 postgraduates (5 PhD and 5 MSc) benefited through their engagement in JRAs.
• About 100 enquiries have been received by the Access Interface Team and processed with the TPoCs. 41 of those led to TA projects committed. All of these are expected to yield results for ongoing research projects and for setting up new partnerships.
• ASCENT+ partners organised 1 Workshop, 9 Webinars, and 1 Open Days, presented at 4 booths and advertised the offer at 13 technical talks. Although we do not have access to the records of externally organised meetings, it is estimated that each of the meetings was attended by over 30 attendees, thereby allowing ASCENT+ reaching out to over 600 stakeholders. Dissemination and communication was also implemented through Press Releases, the quarterly ASCENT+ Newsletter and the Community Research Focus campaign at our Social Media accounts (over 10,000 impressions in LinkedIn).
• While the first TA projects have just been completed, we are aware of several manuscripts having been submitted for publication or in preparation. It is expected that TAs will produce frontier research with at least one publication as output from each TA project. Similarly, frontier research is expected from JRAs, pushing the state-of-the-art of the ASCENT+ offer. This is exemplified by the 9 high-quality publications derived so far from JRA-related research, of which over 50% combine expertise from different disciplines.
• ASCENT+ implemented direct actions towards SME engagement through the SME Handbook, surveys and access to members of the industry clusters of the consortium. Four TA projects have been offered to non-academic users of which three to SMEs. This is 9% of the total TA projects granted.
• A segmentation analysis was performed to improve the message to SMEs and directly link to research stakeholders within the companies (as opposed to business/sales representatives).
• Several investments have been secured to grow and upgrade the facilities comprising the ASCENT+ Infrastructure.
• ASCENT+ engages with key scientific and technology networks. Consortium partners regularly attend events dedicated to research and technology infrastructure, where policies, sustainability, and best practices are discussed.
• A perspective paper was prepared by one of the Access Providers to promote their offer in enabling infrastructure and materials platform for quantum technologies (‘The potential and global outlook of integrated photonics for quantum technologies’, Nat. Rev. Phys. https://doi.org/10.1038/s42254-021-00398-z 2022).
• ASCENT+ organized a dedicated workshop at EuroNanoForum 2021 with 5 projects covering the entire value chain related to access to infrastructure for nanotechnology.
The impact of ASCENT+ lies in its capacity to facilitate easy access to world class infrastructure in Tyndall, imec, CEA-Leti, Fraunhofer and INL through a single entry point.
In doing so, it facilitates innovation and fosters news collaborations. Many users of ASCENT+ go on to develop research plans and joint projects as a result of the outputs of trans-national access projects.
Map of ASCENT+ network of members (direct sign-up only) and enquiries received.