Prof. Angel Rodríguez-Vázquez (AnaFocus Ltd. Universidad de Sevilla (Instituto de Microelectrónica de Sevilla – IMSE/CNM))
Advanced societies require strong universities and research centres as well as strong industries. Experience tells us that the best universities are usually located at countries that made a continued bid for industrial leadership. And this is not only valid for applied science and technology, but for basic science as well. While countries with limited industrial development may punctually be competitive on basic science, long term competitiveness cannot be sustained without a companion, strong industrial development. On the one hand, modern science benefits from industrial challenges. On the other hand, making significant advances in modern science typically require huge investments which are hardly feasible for societies with un-healthy economies. Effective university-industry cooperation requires that the two main characters recognize and respect mutually, and that they are ready to collaborate in the right terms. University should not be contemplated by industry as a source of cheap labor. Replicating the existing art by embedding it into products, can be an eventual requisite for collaboration, but should not be the primary mission of university. Neither the primary mission of industry is undertaking risky research endeavors with uncertain roads to marketable products. Just to mention an example, R&D departments on prime line techno companies usually set around three-years latency for new techniques to become marketable. Spanish universities and research centers are today producing excellently educated PhDs who compete worldwide. They do not have any problem to find well remunerated, challenging jobs abroad. And many of them are leaving, thus undermining our system of science and technology. We all have the responsibility of creating opportunities for these people, beyond staying at the centers were they were educated. It is clear that universities and research centers should offer opportunities for some PhDs to renew and enhance their staff. But, besides the education of future researchers and professors, the purpose of PhD programs should be to educate people to work at technological industries, thus enriching our industrial issue and helping to build a technologically competitive society. The other way around, industries should be aware that their competiveness will significantly increase by incorporating PhDs to their teams. In 2004, and based on the knowledge devised after many years by a research group of the University of Seville and the IMSE-CNM, myself and some colleagues started the company Innovaciones Microelectrónicas S.L. (AnaFocus) in Seville. Todays, this company employs some 50 engineers out of which 20% are PhDs. AnaFocus activities are in the field of smart CMOS optical sensors. CMOS imagers have evolved during the last two decades to dominate the market of area imagers, with more than 90% of the total share. This evolution has been basically fueled by consumer applications (mostly cell phones) with the prevalent trends of decreasing the pixel pitch and with most relevant challenges focused on the design and optimization of the photo-sensor devices themselves. Although cell phones will remain the dominant applications for CMOS imagers, the market volume for other applications (such as machine vision, surveillance, military applications, X-ray imagers, medical, etc.) is forecasted to reach some 0.7billion units in 2015. For many of these applications image resolution, although undoubtedly important, must be complemented with other features such as speed and smartness. For instance, sensors intended for surveillance applications should be capable to analyze complex spatial-temporal scenes and combine high-quality image recording of significant events with high-speed decision making. Just to mention another example, scientific applications call for the smart selection of salient points and region-of-interests and for the ultra-high-speed downloading of the so selected areas. Finally, machine vision sensors (employed for instance for inspection) require image content analysis and decision making to be made with largest possible throughput. All these features require the incorporation of processing circuitry together with the photo-sensing and readout circuitry themselves and define the category of the so-called smart-cameras-on-chip. In this talk I will briefly talk about the AnaFocus experience and will refer to new opportunities which may arise for technology transfer on CMOS imaging and more specifically on the use of CMOS single photon avalanche diodes.
|Oral or poster presentation