June 14, 2012

Israel looks to join nano party

By: Larry Rulison

Source: Times Union

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ALBANY — As the European Union is considering doing semiconductor research in Albany, Israel — a major industry player in its own right — is also looking at ways to get involved here.

A contingent of Israeli officials and academics who toured the University at Albany's College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering on Tuesday — including Nili Shalev, Israel's economics minister to North America — said they can't imagine a country like Israel, or anyone else, trying to duplicate a similar research facility.

The NanoCollege says its programs and facilities have a cumulative investment of $14 billion.

"I'm highly impressed," said Shalev, who has worked for Israel's Ministry of Industry and Trade since 1995. "The investment that has gone into this place... it's definitely something we need to learn how we can benefit from."

Alain Kaloyeros, NanoCollege chief executive, said Tuesday that school officials would work with Israeli officials to draft a memorandum of understanding on future collaboration.

"We would love to work with them," Kaloyeros said.

Shalev was accompanied on the tour by Yigal Komem, professor emeritus at Technion, Israel's major technological university, located in Haifa. Komem, an expert in materials engineering, has decades of experience in the semiconductor industry and has worked as a visiting scientist with IBM in Yorktown Heights. He was also a research associate at Cornell University from 1968 to 1971.

The visit by the Israeli delegation comes as the European Union released a report that says Gov. Andrew Cuomo's announcement last fall of a $4.8 billion computer chip consortium at the NanoCollege will likely force Europe to establish a presence in Albany to keep pace.

The report specifically referred to the creation of what's known as the Global 450 Consortium, a group composed of Intel, IBM, GlobalFoundries, Samsung and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. that will set up pilot manufacturing lines in Albany that use larger silicon wafers to make their computer chips. The new wafers — which are 18 inches across instead of the 12-inch wafers used today — are expected to provide exponential cost savings and production output to the industry.

Kaloyeros believes the European Union will have to join the consortium — also known as G450C — at a cost of $750 million. He said it was "truly amazing" that last fall's deal has had such a quick and wide-ranging impact. He said state officials have already started talks with EU officials.

"Who would ever have thought that the EU would be considering doing business in Albany?" Kaloyeros asked. "But it makes perfect sense to have that cross-Atlantic relationship."