- Buyers Guide
As the roadmap for research and innovation in Europe transfers from FP7 to Horizon 2020, can this 2020 vision bring the strategies, investment and commitment needed to ensure that the European RF and microwave industry’s future is bright and focused?
he end of 2013 will see the curtain fall on the Seventh Framework Programme for Research (FP7) and the conclusion of its seven year run as a key driver for development, innovation and collaboration, when it will be superseded by Horizon 2020. Despite the inroads that the initiative has made, the cross-border, cross-discipline cooperation it has generated, the streamlining of finance and bureaucracy it has achieved and the significant and influential results that its projects have yielded, European research and innovation hasn’t quite been delivered to FP7th Heaven yet. There is a lot of work to be done and serious issues to be addressed before the prospect of European industrial Nirvana appears on the skyline.
“…European research and innovation hasn’t quite been delivered to FP7th Heaven...”
When FP7 was launched in 2007 very few, if any, would have envisaged that just one year later the 2008 financial crisis would trigger the economic downturn, spark recessions of varying degrees across Europe and significantly change the political, industrial and economic landscape.
It is an ongoing process but Europe is slowly but surely recovering from the downturn and needs to play to its strengths for that to continue. It is a world leader in many strategic sectors such as automotive, aeronautics, engineering, space, chemicals and pharmaceuticals. Industry still accounts for 80 percent of Europe’s exports, while 80 percent of both Europe’s exports and private sector R&D investment comes from manufacturing.
Also, despite the continuing economic crisis, innovation performance in the EU has improved year on year but, as the European Commission Innovation Union Scoreboard 2013, a ranking of EU member states, points out, the innovation divide between member states is widening. While the most innovative countries have further improved their performance, others are failing to do so. The overall ranking within the EU remains relatively stable, with Sweden at the top, followed by Germany, Denmark and Finland. And, although coming from a relatively low base, it is the Eastern European counties of Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia that have most improved since last year.
“…the innovation divide between member states is widening...”
Scoreboard 2013 reports that drivers of innovation growth in the EU include Small and Medium Sized enterprises (SME) and the commercialisation of innovations, together with excellent research systems. However the fall in business and venture capital investment from 2008 to 2012 has negatively influenced innovation performance.
Although the EU is a global leader in many technologies and its innovation performance has held up, it now faces increasing competition from traditional competitors as well as emerging economies and must strive to progress.
Research and innovation helps to deliver prosperity, employment and investment and also leads to business opportunities by creating innovative products and services. Consequently, it has been placed at the forefront of the Europe 2020 strategy by setting the objective to increase spending on R&D to 3 percent of GDP by 2020.
The European RF and microwave industry has the distinct advantage that it is at the forefront of key technologies such as mobile communications and wireless technologies that are sought after commodities and play a significant role in modern life. It can provide solutions to safer and efficient road transport, safeguard national and international borders, provide security and help explore new frontiers. Through R&D and industrial activities, the RF and microwaves sector is tackling technological challenges and creating business opportunities.
In particular, the hunger for higher data rates to sate the appetite of the ‘smartphone generation’ is challenging design concepts and stimulating innovation. For instance, in the battle to support LTE devices with multimode, multiband PAs, front ends have entered the frontline as the players in the GaAs, CMOS and envelope tracking camps fight to establish their position in the marketplace.
“…increase spending on R&D to 3 percent of GDP.”
Like their counterparts in North America and Asia, European companies and engineers continue to make significant progress in the development of semiconductor power devices and integrated circuits, alongside the evolution of packaging solutions, which enables complex chip-level system integration at ever increasing frequencies. Indeed, higher frequencies are being developed for short-range, high capacity communications as well as high resolution imaging radar.
With reduced investment in defence, companies traditionally serving this sector are looking to augment their order books by addressing applications which increasingly stem from civil requirements. For instance, radar technology is expanding in areas such as road traffic safety, civil aviation/runway detection, homeland security and space/earth observation. In the field of civil radar, Europe remains strong even in terms of high volume production, especially in automotive radar, which will be demonstrated at EuMW 2013, where it will be a major theme.
With the industry focus primarily on product development, it is easy to forget the importance of developing the ‘instruments’ vital to support R&D and bring the latest technology to market. Europe continues to develop advanced modeling and simulation tools, alongside high performance, high speed RF test and measurement equipment that serves the global market.
As well as the tools to test and evaluate design and performance, the European RF and microwave industry needs the right tools to enable industry, research bodies and academia receive financial support, pool resources and build on expertise to bring research faster to market and stimulate demand for European products and services. Following is an overview of the initiatives and funding that the EU has put in place with particular emphasis on the objectives and operation of Horizon 2020 and the focus on SMEs.
The final calls under the 7th Framework Programme for Research went out in the middle of 2012, with the successful projects now underway and due to run their course in the next few years. Some of those specific to the RF and microwave, semiconductor/IC and radar sectors of our industry are highlighted in Sector Overviews & Initiatives later in this report.
“...Horizon 2020 will run from 2014 to 2020 with a budget of €80 billion.”
FP7 has played a significant role in bringing structure, direction and stimulus to European research and innovation projects and Horizon 2020 is set to build on its successes and benefit from the lessons learned. In particular, the FP7 interim evaluation report concluded that further simplification was needed. Therefore, Horizon 2020 will have three main goals: to reduce administrative costs of participants, to accelerate all processes of proposal and grant management and to decrease the financial error rate.
Major simplification will be facilitated by a single set of rules and Horizon 2020 will amalgamate all research and innovation funding currently provided through the Framework Programmes for Research and Technical Development, the innovation related activities of the Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme (CIP) and the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), which has a vital role to play by integrating research, education and innovation. The EIT will do so primarily through the Knowledge and Innovation Communities (KIC).
With the aim of creating growth and employment across Europe through research and innovation, Horizon 2020 will run from 2014 to 2020 with a budget of €80 billion. The first calls are expected at the end of 2013/early 2014. Significantly, its approach to innovation will not be limited to just bringing new products to market. It will also encompass processes, systems or other approaches, including recognising and exploiting European strengths in design, creativity and services.
“…increase in funding of 77% for the European Research Council…”
Horizon 2020 will focus resources on three priorities: Excellent Science, Industrial Leadership and Societal Challenges. Although all three priorities are relevant to the RF and microwave industry, it is the first two, especially Industrial Leadership, which have the potential to make the most impact. Excellent Science seeks to raise the level of excellence in Europe’s science base and ensure a steady stream of world-class research to secure Europe’s long-term competitiveness. In order to strengthen the EU’s position in science, a dedicated budget of €24,598 million will provide a boost to top-level research, including an increase in funding of 77 percent for the European Research Council (ERC).
The stated aim of Industrial Leadership is to make Europe an attractive place to invest in research and innovation by promoting activities where businesses set the agenda. Investment of €17,938 million in industrial leadership in innovation includes significant investment in key technologies, greater access to capital and support for small and medium-sized enterprises.
SMEs are the backbone of the RF and microwave skeleton in Europe, supporting the larger operations and international conglomerates. Their potential for innovation, stemming from their inherent agility and flexibility needs to be exploited and the Innovation Union flagship initiative includes a commitment to ensure strong participation by SMEs in Horizon 2020.
Simplification is seen as being the key for SMEs, whose limited resources should not be stretched by having to deal with unnecessary red tape and high administrative burdens. To this end there will be a single entry point for small and medium-sized enterprises wishing to participate in Horizon 2020 and a dedicated activity for research-intensive SMEs will support the next stage in the Eurostars scheme implemented in partnership with member states.
As has been touched on in this annual Report in previous years, the Eurostars Programme is a European joint initiative dedicated to SMEs performing R&D, and co-funded by the European Communities and EUREKA member countries. Within the programme, small businesses lead international research projects where they partner with other small companies, universities and big companies. Eurostars funding is used for the development of new technological products and purely academic projects are not eligible for funding. Being tailored specifically for SMEs, the application and reporting processes are simplified.
“…promoting activities where businesses set the agenda…”
While it supports the Eurostars Programme, EUREKA has a larger remit. Founded in 1985 to challenge the increasing migration of R&D and industrial innovation to Asian and North American countries, EUREKA now unites 40 member countries and counts the European Union as its 41st member. Together, they promote international, market-oriented research and innovation through the support they offer to SMEs, large industry, research institutes and universities.
Also of interest to the RF and microwave industry are EUREKA Clusters. They are public-private partnerships uniting major companies and national innovation agencies to complete pre-competitive technological research projects, setting standards for entire markets. Clusters projects are initiated through calls for funding application, where SMEs and universities are invited to join projects, thus directly linking them to large companies and multinationals.
Each Cluster covers one specific industry sector. Those of particular interest to the RF and microwave community are: CATRENE – the Cluster for micro and nano-electronics, EURIPIDES, which specialises in smart systems and CELTIC Plus that focuses on telecommunications, including smartphone and other Internet-based services.
Although Horizon 2020 and associated initiatives are, of course, Europe-centric, it is also recognised that European industry does not operate in a vacuum and has to complement and function within the global marketplace. Activities at the international level are equally important to enhance the competitiveness of European industry by promoting the take-up and trade in novel technologies, e.g., through the development of worldwide standards and guidelines, and by promoting the acceptance and deployment of European solutions to the wider world. In particular, international cooperation with third parties is necessary to effectively address specific objectives defined within Horizon 2020.
The general principles of Horizon 2020, like FP7 before it, and other EU initiatives are far reaching and all encompassing. Emanating from them are specific initiatives that are of significance to the RF and microwave industry.
For instance, to reverse the decline of the EU’s global share in the electronic components and systems market and build on areas of strength such as embedded systems, semiconductor equipment and materials supply and the design of complex electronic systems, the European Commission has proposed the new Electronic Components and Systems for European Leadership (ECSEL) Joint Technology Initiative (JTI). This is a merger of the ARTEMIS initiative on embedded systems and the ENIAC initiative on nano-electronics that were both launched in 2008; it also incorporates research and innovation on smart systems.
The ECSEL JTI is likely to have a budget of €4.8 billion, with an EU contribution up to €1.2 billion, matched by the contribution from member states. It is expected to start in early 2014 and run for 10 years, bringing together large and small companies, world-class European research and technology organisations and academia.
“I want 5G to be pioneered by European industry...”
Also, the mobile communications industry, fuelled by the ‘smartphone revolution,’ may have posed technological challenges but it has also created potentially game changing opportunities. While many of us have still to embrace 4G, the European Commission has announced €50 million for research to deliver 5G mobile technology by 2020, with the aim of putting Europe back at the forefront of the global mobile industry. When announcing the initiative, EC vice president Neelie Kroes said, “I want 5G to be pioneered by European industry, based on European research and creating jobs in Europe – and we will put our money where our mouth is.”
Europe also intends to take greater ownership of its military communications capability and harmonise wireless communications, with EU member states having tended to address this issue in a piecemeal manner, through various developments and standards that are not always compatible. This has made it increasingly difficult for forces to cooperate on multinational operations and resulted in reliance on third-party nations, particularly the United States, for certain interoperable assets or resources.
Therefore, the European Defence Agency (EDA) has commissioned Thales to conduct a study of the main terrestrial and satellite communication network Programmes in European Union countries under the Future Communications (FUCOM) project. The project will compile an inventory of the main member states’ existing and future assets, including military satellite communication systems, terrestrial tactical communications (software-defined radio), professional mobile radio (PMR) and LTE capabilities.
Such initiatives will offer momentum and direction to our industry and complement the individual and collective efforts of those at the forefront of research and innovation. The next section of this report offers a perspective of current activity and identifies future trends.
Sector Overviews & Initiatives
The chairmen of the three 2013 European Microwave Week conferences – the European Microwave Conference (EuMC), the European Microwave Integrated Circuits (EuMIC) Conference and the European Radar (EuRAD) Conference – offer an insight into key areas of development and identify future trends. To illustrate specific European activity in these sectors, examples of current FP7 initiatives that will continue after 2013 are highlighted.
RF & Microwaves
Sector overview by Lorenz-Peter Schmidt, EuMC 2013 chair (In collaboration with Thomas Zwick, TPC chair and Yoke Leen Sit, secretary)
The RF and microwave sector in Europe is steadily developing despite increasing worldwide competition, especially since the high volume business in fields such as mobile communication devices manufacturing, including specific Research & Development activities, are increasingly being shifted to Asia. In the field of civil radar, especially automotive radar, the European position is still going strong even in terms of high volume production. However, the military business and partly also the space business are suffering from budget cuts in European countries, only partly compensated by their worldwide export business success. Currently the European Union is preparing new frameworks to strengthen the competitiveness of the micro- and nanoelectronics activities in Europe in order to preserve Europe’s strong position in these high-tech fields.
In the RF and microwave sector, rapid technological progress is underway towards the design and production of devices of higher complexity, higher flexibility, lower power consumption and better performance at lower prices. Examples are the reconfigurable, fully software-controlled communication and radar front ends in flexible MIMO systems. This is rendered possible by novel system concepts, higher levels of device integration, intensive use of switching or tuning elements such as MEMS switches and wide swing varactors, which are currently available with extended lifetime and high reliability.
Enormous advances have been achieved in the semiconductor world, where III-V semiconductors are being entirely replaced by highly advanced Silicon-based circuits for low to medium power applications. There is also ongoing dynamic competition between CMOS and bipolar SiGe circuits with changing priorities, depending on performance and cost issues. The rapid progress of the GaN technology on the other hand enables higher output power per device as well as significantly increased supply voltages, which then reduces supply currents, and this benefits power transmitters and flexible multi-element active phased array transmitter front ends. Highly advanced linearization concepts and sophisticated modulation schemes further increase the levels of available power from solid-state power amplifiers at microwave to millimetre-wave frequencies.
“…integrated circuits in smart packages at reasonable costs...”
Currently there is also the trend to evaluate and develop the utilization of the frequency range beyond 100 GHz. The work focuses on specific applications in the fields of short-range, high capacity communications as well as high resolution imaging radar for security applications and non-destructive testing of materials. These systems are supported by a novel class of integrated circuits in smart packages at reasonable costs.
Coming up are the challenges for the system development and mass production of devices in the fields of car-to-car and car-to-infrastructure communication. Furthermore, the 360° coverage of the car environment by smart radar sensors as well as smart home and smart city applications of low-cost microwave short-range communication devices, smart sensors and RFID equipment is of rapidly growing interest. Actual developments such as devices that require very low supply power, energy harvesting, wireless power transmission and UWB technologies are further extending the range of applications for RFID and smart sensor systems.
These systems have now matured into versatile, highly mobile platforms combining identification and precise localization with a wide variety of sensing capabilities for industrial, medical, smart home and other applications. Moreover, the microwave range has proven to be ideally suited to a variety of sensor and communication systems for natural or manmade disaster management support, which includes highly flexible, UAV or satellite based SAR and environmental monitoring systems, where Europe traditionally has a strong position.
Microwave R&D and also low to high volume production enterprises are becoming excellently supported by highly advanced commercial modeling and simulation tools as well as by dedicated, high performance, high speed RF test and measurement equipment. Hence, a lot of scientific and technological challenges and business opportunities are keeping the European RF and microwaves sector on a very attractive level for increased or new R&D and industrial activities.
One of the most important developments in communication microelectronics was the invention and popularization of digital RF. It is best realized in mainstream nanometer-scale CMOS technologies and easily integrated with digital processors. Consequently, RF transceivers based on this architecture are now the majority of the 1.5 billion mobile handsets produced annually. Unfortunately, that low-cost low-data-rate market segment has already reached saturation and now the fastest growing segments of the wireless communications market are: high-data-rate smartphones, ultra-low-power wireless sensor network devices, antenna-array and millimetre-wave transceivers, where the original digital RF approach could not be readily exploited.
Therefore, the goal of the Time-Domain RF and Analog Signal Processing (TDRFSP) project is to revisit and exploit the fundamental theory of the time-domain operation of RF and analogue circuits. This way, the broad area of the wireless communications, as well as analogue and mixed-signal electronics in general, can be transformed for the ready realization in the advanced CMOS technology. This project will receive just under €1.5 million in funding and has a finish date of 31 August 2017.
With a total budget of around €2.87 million, the Quantum Propagating Microwaves in Strongly Coupled Environments (PROMISCE) project aims to provide the foundations for a novel research field: propagating quantum microwave technologies in strongly and ultra-strongly coupled environments. In particular, it has potential for scalable quantum information and communication technology (Q-ICT) applications. It combines two major innovative and interdisciplinary components. The first, propagating quantum microwave photonics, focuses on the generation, control and detection of quantum microwave beams and photons using superconducting quantum circuits. The second aims at exploring propagating quantum microwave interactions. Both components are intimately connected: technological and conceptual achievements in one component will immediately trigger progress in the other one. Together they will provide, integrated on a chip, the equivalent of optical Q-ICT experiments in the microwave regime. The project is scheduled to run until 31 March 2015.
ICs & Semiconductors
Sector overview by Manfred Berroth, EuMIC 2013 chair (In collaboration with Andreas Thiede, vice-chair and Alexander Bräckle)
The state of the art in integrated circuits, covering frequencies from microwaves to the submillimetre-wave region, will be presented and discussed at the 8th European Microwave Integrated Circuits Conference. One of the main applications for RF integrated circuits is mobile communication, where the industry faces an ever-increasing demand for higher data rates, resulting from the widespread use of smartphones.
Apart from classical mobile communication, there are several challenges which can also be solved by RF integrated circuits. Many research activities focus on technologies to enable data rates up to 1 Tbit/s. This can be achieved by wireless communication systems operating at millimetre-wave frequencies as well as by optical data transmission.
In industry, there is a clear trend towards self-organization of machines requiring communication within the factory environment. The main challenge is a highly rugged communication link, which is achieved by communication links at high frequencies up to 60 GHz. Thus, RF integrated circuits enable low cost communication systems in industrial environments.
“…energy efficiency will become a dominating design challenge…”
Universally, energy efficiency will become a dominating design challenge. As most of the power in a communication system is dissipated in the power amplifier, this continues to be a hot topic of research. Gallium nitride offers new opportunities for RF power amplifier design, but CMOS circuits are also being investigated due to their integration capabilities. For example, nanoscaled CMOS allows power amplifiers at 60 GHz and by the use of BiCMOS technologies, amplifiers in the higher millimetre-wave region are being reported.
Further research to achieve technologies beyond 100 GHz is being carried out in universities, research facilities and several foundries in Europe. The importance of this topic is reflected in the fact that a focused session on high frequency technologies will be a highlight of EuMIC.
The spectrum of RF integrated circuits is completed by RF micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS) and ferroelectric materials. These allow the design of tunable and switchable filters, offering attractive markets for multiband and multistandard terminals.
Last but not least, the advances in RFICs require better theoretical understanding as do the increasingly cheaper and easier-to-use simulation and test capabilities available. As well as advancements in mobile radio communication, sensing and imaging offer interesting applications at microwave and millimetre-wave frequencies.
Current applications of microwave technologies in communications, remote sensing and in industry are based on the properties of the interaction of microwaves with matter at supra-wave length scales (above centimetres). The developments performed in nanotechnology in recent years now make it conceivable to explore the interaction of microwaves with matter at much smaller scales, from micrometres to nanometres.
Being an emerging technology, there is a need for training early stage researchers in this field of research so that enough critical mass can be achieved. The main objective of the Microwave Nanotechnology for Semiconductor and Life Sciences (NANOMICROWAVE) network is to train a whole generation of researchers in the field of nanoscale microwave technologies and related emerging applications in the fields of semiconductor industry and life sciences. The final aim of the network is to help to position and consolidate Europe as a leader in the field of nanoscale microwave technologies and related applications. The project will receive over €4 million of EU funding and will extend until 31 December 2016.
Technology requirements for future IC systems include low power computing and communication, sensing capabilities and energy harvesting. These will unlikely be met with silicon technology alone. Therefore, the Integrating Graphene Devices (INTEGRADE) project investigates graphene as a potential alternative technology. The proposal focuses on the experimental exploration of novel (opto-) electronic devices and systems based on graphene. Strong emphasis is put on integration, defined as an interdisciplinary approach combining graphene manufacturing, graphene process technology, device engineering and device physics as well as system design. The project will receive €1.5 million of funding and will extend until 31 August 2017.
Sector overview by Arne Jacob, EuRAD 2013 chair (In collaboration with Reinhard Knoechel, TPC-chair and Christian Friesicke, secretary)
As one of the major international conferences in the field, the 10th European Radar Conference, reflects well the current developments in the radar sector, both in industry and in academia. The sector benefits at the system level from technological progress realized at the component and the subsystem level. Today’s radars thus incorporate increasingly sophisticated features emerging from a wealth of technological areas. This trend is driven by applications which increasingly stem from civil needs. Besides the traditional military markets, radar technology is expanding more and more in areas such as traffic safety, homeland security, or space/earth observation to name only a few. The observed system advancements rely both on improved analog and digital hardware technologies and on enhanced software possibilities.
At the component and subsystem level obviously the antennas play an important role. The progress realized in this field substantially contributes to the versatility of modern radars. This is illustrated by the numerous conference reports on MIMO radars. The trend is supported by the tremendous progress in semiconductor power devices and integrated circuits development as well as in packaging solutions, which allows for high complexity chip-level system integration at ever increasing frequencies and boosts Active Electronically Scanning Arrays (AESA) for application in multifunctional radar systems.
A clearly noticeable trend is the progress realized in the rapidly evolving area of target classification. On the hardware side, it is fostered by the evolution of polarimetric radar. In addition, advanced signal analysis as well as sophisticated post-processing methods allow for precise feature extraction. The effort in this area is clearly demonstrated by the conference reports on human motion recognition via micro-Doppler signature extraction or on concealed object detection and classification.
“Target classification...is fostered by the evolution of polarimetric radar.”
These technological trends as well as the cost reductions realizable, e.g., because of the progress in semiconductor processing, open up a wealth of opportunities for improved or even new and, in particular, civil applications. Much effort is devoted to extending the performance range of automotive radar, pedestrian and cyclist protection as well as current advances in active avoidance techniques. Fast and reliable imaging in difficult environments is also an issue in security applications.
In industrial environments, one can notice the development of precise localization schemes and the implementation of dependable level measurements, e.g., in silos. Radars also find their way into microwave medical applications where vital sign detection is a strongly growing field. Finally, a constant driver of innovation is the space sector. The multitude of surveillance and mapping tasks has been – and still is – leading to a wealth of challenging new developments, especially of SAR technology.
In summary of this partial overview, the radar sector is a more than healthy and rapidly expanding field, which is heavily impacted by the latest technological developments.
EISCAT_3D is a next generation incoherent scatter radar system for high-latitude atmosphere and geospace studies that will be built in northern Fenno-Scandinavia. The first phase of the project is: EISCAT_3D: A European three-dimensional imaging radar for atmospheric and geospace research (Preparatory Phase), which will run until 30 September 2014 with a total cost of €6 million. The facility will consist of multiple large phased-array antenna transmitters/receivers in three countries, comprising tens of thousands of individual antenna elements. The new radars will collect data from the upper stratosphere to the magnetosphere and beyond, contributing to the basic, environmental and applied science that underpins the use of space by contemporary society.
Also, the International automotive 79 GHz frequency harmonization initiative and worldwide operating vehicular radar frequency standardization platform (79 GHz) project is set to conclude on 30 June 2014. Its intention is to establish and speed up the worldwide harmonized frequency allocation for automotive radar systems in the 77 to 81 GHz (79 GHz) frequency range.
The technologies outlined in this report have the potential to stimulate activity, fuel growth, combat the lingering effects of the economic downturn and withstand competition from both traditional and emerging markets. Together, new technologies, new materials and the expertise of skilled designers and engineers, backed up by the streamlined structure, focus and financial support of Horizon 2020 and associated EU initiatives can be a potent force.
The promise is there but will it become a reality? There is no doubting the EU’s commitment to stimulating research and innovation and growing European industry. Although the EU is providing financial stimulus that is the envy of others around the world, the money has to be spent wisely and focused on developing new technologies, improving the business environment and offering easy and simple access to markets and finance, particularly for SMEs, in order to ensure that skills meet industry’s needs and products satisfy demand.
The name of the EU’s new funding programme for research and innovation – Horizon 2020 – reflects the ambition to deliver ideas, growth and jobs for the future. If confidence returns, and with it new investments, Europe’s industry, including the RF and microwave sector, can perform better, continue growing and widen its horizons.