With the COVID-19 pandemic, imec has taken several measures to protect the health and safety of the imec community and to limit the impact on the continuity of imec, on our operations, our research and our commitment to partners. We want to emphasize that imec is committed to keep on fulfilling its role as a global R&D center delivering to its partners and stakeholders.
We would like to inform you that, out of concern for the health and wellbeing of our employees and all other people at imec premises during the COVID-19 pandemic, we have implemented several safety measures throughout imec. One of these measures is that we ask people to do a self-check prior to coming to imec.
We do not record the outcome of this self-check, but we do ask you to respect this policy for everyone’s best interest.
We ask you to check the following:
We will not require the outcome of this self-check but by registering at registration desk, you declare that you have done the self-check and fulfill the requirements to be allowed entrance onto the imec premises.
We would like to thank you for your cooperation in our efforts to safeguard our employees and all other people at imec premises. Should you have any questions regarding the procedure, do not hesitate to ask email@example.com. Should you have questions with regard to your personal privacy, you can contact the privacy office of imec via firstname.lastname@example.org or consult our privacy statement at our website for more information regarding the processing of your personal information.
Out of concern for the health and wellbeing of our employees and all other people at imec premises during the COVID-19 pandemic, imec does not allow visitors (Belgian residents and non-residents)* who return to Belgium after a stay of at least 48 hours in a red or orange zone (check https://diplomatie.belgium.be/en) unless they stayed in quarantine for at least 7 days and have done a COVID-19 test on the 1st day after arrival for Belgian residents or within 72 hours before entering Belgium for non-residents and on the 7th day after arrival and can present a negative test max. 72hr before arrival at imec.
Imec employees are also not allowed to go on business travel.
*Assignees are not considered as visitors and are welcome to work on-site and have to comply with the imec employee travel policy.
Imec would not be imec if its state-of-the-art technology portfolio didn’t contribute to tackle the global pandemic. Most visible was probably the announcement of developing a SARS-CoV-2 test to identify positive cases and confirm whether someone is contagious in less than five minutes. The groundbreaking approach will use virus particles in exhaled breath for quick, easy, comfortable, large-scale point-of-care testing. Imec is teaming up with the UZ Leuven University Hospital for the solution’s clinical validation and with Brussels Airport for functional prototype testing.
But also indirectly, imec technology is contributing to dealing with the pandemic and its consequences. For example, thanks to its collaboration with Lopos, a spin-off of imec and the Ghent University, presenting the SafeDistance wearable that helps employees follow social distancing guidelines through an audible or haptic alarm. The wearable solution guarantees privacy by measuring distance without logging or storing data. On a related topic, imec also collaborated with Romware for the development of its wearable worker safety device. Their solution ensures worker safety in industrial environments. Thanks to some minor adjustments, the Romware Covid Radius is now able to contribute to the prevention of corona infections in the workplace.
Not specifically developed because of the pandemic, but also worth mentioning in this context are imec’s activities on haptic feedback and on e-learning as well as the 2020 launch of a new spin-off called Crowdscan. As a spin-off from imec and the University of Antwerp, Crowdscan has developed a system that measures the density of a crowd in real-time using a wireless sensor network and without using camera images, mobile phone data or other privacy-sensitive information. When the COVID-19 crisis broke out, Crowdscan immediately realized the added value of the technology for helping society adapt to the new needs of social distancing. In May, a successful pilot project was launched to measure the size of groups on a bridge and a street near the MAS museum in Antwerp (Belgium). Today, Crowdscan technology is also monitoring crowd densities is cities such as Ghent (Belgium).
Another already ongoing activity that suddenly became more relevant, was the i-Learn program under coordination of imec. It was launched by the Flemish Government in September 2019 to support personalized digital learning in Flemish education. When in March 2020 primary and secondary schools suddenly had to rely on online and remote learning, the i-Learn consortium rapidly launched a temporary online platform with freely available digital tools.
Last but not least, the COVID pandemic also put imec’s efforts on haptic feedback in an entirely new context. In this activity, imec uses micromachined transducers to turn ultrasound into sense of touch. Already developed as a next step in smart interfacing, the benefits of “touchless” interfaces in a (post-)pandemic context has only made this research more relevant and urgent.
Imec’s 200mm and 300mm Fabs showed a 10% increase in volumes and output in 2020 compared to 2019. While the whole of Belgium went into a strict lockdown in March-April and again from November onwards, the operational teams at imec managed not only to keep the Fabs running at all time, but even realized record outputs. An outstanding achievement, considering the Fabs are one of the key differentiators in enabling imec’s advanced semiconductor research strategy.
Also outside of the cleanroom, imec stayed fully operational thanks to the rapid adaptation to remote work and meetings. As likely any company worldwide, imec had to rapidly transform its way of working and switch to online and remote interactions to accommodate for the numerous and all-important meetings between colleagues and with partners. One proof point of the flexibility and dedication by which the imec researchers have embraced this new reality is their large number of contributions to top conferences, as can be found in the category on international recognition.
Towards partners, imec successfully translated the partner technology weeks and imec technology forums (ITF) into inspiring virtual alternatives. Leading – maybe even somewhat surprisingly – to consistently around twice as much participants as for their physical counterparts in 2019. At least as important was that the participants’ feedback learned that imec was able to capture a lot of the dynamics of physical meetings, such as booths, demo’s, one-on-one discussions and matchmaking. Some participants even said ITF was by far the best virtual event they attended, giving a truly immersive experience.
With little or no immediate change on the horizon, these efforts and results are encouraging to maintain the necessary level of connectedness within the imec organization and with the research partners in the transition period that is ahead of us.