5 min

Preface April 2017

Each month, our CEO reflects on his life and work and discusses the topics described in that month’s imec magazine issue.

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Unique architecture

There’s always something rather special about being invited to ‘cut the red ribbon’. It was an honor that was bestowed on me on Friday 9 March for the inauguration of De Krook. De Krook is a unique new building in the heart of Ghent (Belgium) where our colleagues at imec Ghent now have the opportunity to work alongside researchers from UGent and employees of the city library.

De Krook

But De Krook is more than just a new office and library building. It is somewhere for everyone interested in culture, knowledge and innovation to come and meet and be inspired. That’s what it says on their website – and it also happens to be absolutely true. For example, take the big 12 m² datawall installed at De Krookby imec: 10 connected screens that together form an interactive platform. We’ll be using it to share our results, while, in return, visitors to De Krook will be able to give us their opinions about our demo’s and prototypes, as well as take part in ongoing studies or register for our living lab projects.

Receiving input from users is essential if you intend to take a successful and useful product to market. That is also the basic premise for our imec.livinglabs, which use living lab projects to give researchers and businesses the opportunity to test their innovative ideas and solutions in depth and – better still – to have them co-developed by the very audience they are aimed at. It’s always best to involve end-users in an innovation process as early as possible.

You’ll find an excellent example of this in the article about the new generation of industrial robots. The robot ‘Walt’ was created in the ‘ClaXon’ imec.icon project, conducted in conjunction with the operators of Audi Brussels. Because the people at Audi are the ones who have to work with the robot. This project demonstrated once again that co-creation is essential for the smooth acceptance of new technology. And now the operators realize better than before that Walt doesn’t actually replace them, but makes their work easier.

Co-creation is also center-stage in the article about GovLab. In this project, the Flemish government is joining forces with imec.livinglabs to develop new products and services for the ordinary man in the street. For example, the foundations have now been laid for the ‘Hi app’, which helps immigrants, seniors, poorly educated workers and people with a disability, to find a job.

On Saturday 10 March, I was again among the first people to visit De Krook and cut the red ribbon (like all of the other visitors), this time with my son Ruben. On this occasion, though, I was looking at the building from a different angle – namely that of an admirer of architecture. This is one of my great passions and one that I have obviously passed on to my son, who has become an architect.

De Krook was designed by the architects Coussée & Goris (two former students from Sint-Lucas in Ghent) in conjunction with the Spanish firm Aranda Pigem Vilalta Arquitectes, which this year won the Pritzker Prize, an award akin to the Nobel Prize for architecture. The building is of a rather sober, distilled design consisting of stacked horizontal lines. A librarian might perhaps see it as a stack of books, whereas anyone from imec would recognize more of a 3D chip in it.

In fact you will find more about this unique 3D chip architecture in an article elsewhere in this imec magazine. 3D technology provides a path for extending Moore’s Law on scaling and for making increasingly fast, smaller, and more complex systems. It comes in many flavors: system-in-package, 3D-stacked IC, 3D system-on-chip, and so on. We like to call it a 3D technology ‘landscape’ instead of a ‘roadmap’ because we believe that a lot of technology options will coexist, even within the same system. To develop all these options, our researchers work like architects, thinking of the best floor plan and dividing the space into functionalities, stacking it in the best possible way. As I have already said, architecture is a passion of mine, including in this field.

 

Luc Van den hove,
General Director and CEO of imec

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