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Emerging Technology Report #25: September 25, 2002

7th International Conference on the Commercialization of Micro and Nano Systems (COMS2002)

- Conference Summary -

Global Emerging Technology Institute

The 7th International Conference on the Commercialization of Micro and Nano Systems (COMS2002) was recently held in Ypsilanti, Michigan on September 8-12. The conference was sponsored by MANCEF (Micro and Nanotechnology Commercialization Education Foundation) and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and supported by many industrial, organizational and media sponsors including the Semiconductor Equipment and Materials International (SEMI) organization and Ardesta a venture capital firm that supports the development of small tech. Michigan Governor John Engler gave a welcome speech that stressed the importance of developing the micro and nanotechnology knowledge base in order to stimulate the growth of value-added advanced manufacturing and life science sectors in the state of Michigan. Governor Engler's introductory speech was followed by presentations by a number of leading figures in MEMS research such as Prof. K. Wise of University of Michigan and Dr. K. Petersen of Cepheid. Overall, the conference consisted of 20 sessions on various topics ranging from market opportunities, foundries, standards, and telecommunications to homeland security. The last day was devoted to a capital formation workshop that provided an opportunity for startups seeking funding to introduce their companies and technologies to an audience of corporate and angel investors, as well as venture capitalists.

This year's COMS conference was overshadowed by the recent poor performance of the high-tech sector, particularly by the telecommunications sector that has announced major lay-offs and decisions to cancel development activities in optical MEMS systems. The news in mid-August that MEMSCAP of France acquired Cronos in a stock deal of $10 million was symbolic, for Cronos was acquired by JDS Uniphase in a stock deal of $750 million just two years ago. Other companies such as Optical Micro Machines (OMM), Nanovation, and Tellium have suffered significantly from the recent market turbulence. A major concern expressed by speakers and attendees was when would the telecommunications sector, and optical MEMS demand, begin to recover. While the potential of optical MEMS switches for telecommunications applications was arguably over optimistic two years ago, industry people now have high hopes of pursuing success in the RF MEMS arena because wireless applications such as cell phone handsets offer immense volume opportunities. In relation to this, Jeremie Bouchaud of Munich-based Wicht Technologie Consulting (WTC) presented a summary of the company's RF MEMS market forecast. WTC anticipates that the market for RF MEMS will start to grow in 2002-04 and that the market will exceed US$1 billion in 2007. He identified micro switches, FBAR, inductors and tunable capacitors as some of the promising MEMS components to be deployed in wireless systems.

Miwako Waga, Japan-based managing director of the Global Emerging Technology Institute (GETI), provided an overview of the current MEMS market trends in Japan. She pointed out that Japanese electronics giants such as Hitachi and Toshiba see an enormous business potential in the convergence of microelectronics and biotechnology and are aggressively developing bioMEMS systems. She also stated that vertically integrated Japanese firms are looking for strategic partners, particularly startups with a unique IP portfolio, in order to enhance value of their end-product systems in a timely manner.

COMS2002 also revealed the maturing of the MEMS industry in terms of the sharing and use of knowledge about future technical directions. MANCEF announced the completion of a comprehensive 600-page MEMS technical roadmap. NEXUS, a European microsystems industry association based in Grenoble, France, will release a final report of its product-technology roadmap by the end of this year. These roadmaps will serve as useful references to anticipate the long-term trends in target applications that will affect the timing and scale of investment of resources on the side of suppliers of technical solutions (i.e. MEMS developers).

As has been the case with the COMS conferences in the past, the participation of Asian companies and organizations in the conference was very limited this year. There are an increasing number of companies who develop, manufacture, and use MEMS and microsystems in Asia. The enhanced foundry and packaging capacities in Asia will become even more important in the global MEMS scene in the years to come. More efforts will be needed to better understand the impact of design and manufacturing capabilities and market opportunities in the region.

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