The EuMC is the longest running of the European Microwave Week Conferences having originated in the UK in 1969. Our industry has come a long way since then in terms of technological development and innovation, the global marketplace and commercial enterprise. The 36th EuMC 2006 conference will reflect that development and the current activity in the industry when it begins at the G-MEX/MICC in Manchester next week.

Professor Tom Brazil

This year has seen a number of important innovations in the way papers are submitted, processed and reviewed for selection at the conference, which has been at times a challenging experience for all concerned. However, in conjunction with the exceptionally high number of submissions received from all over the world, the outcome of all of this has been an increased emphasis on delivering a high quality and comprehensive technical programme.

The EuMC is dedicated to a broad range of high frequency related topics, from materials and technologies to integrated circuits, systems and applications, addressed in all aspects: theory, simulation, design and measurement. It is intended as a forum to bring together international experts, specialising in a wide range of subjects with both academic and industrial backgrounds, and allow for the presentation and discussion of the most recent advances in the field.

A striking feature this year has been the very high number of submitted papers in the topics of antennas, filters and passive components. The large Networks of Excellence and Integrated Projects funded through the European Union’s 6th Framework Programme of research are also maturing and producing many interesting results. Several of these are relevant to the themes of the conference, and, continuing a trend already visible at last year’s event in Paris, are playing a prominent role in this year’s programme through focussed sessions, workshops and other activities.

This year, the conference consists of 60 regular oral sessions, including several focused sessions on specific topics, and two poster sessions. The concept of EuMW favours the integration of the four component conferences, uniting their respective communities. In this spirit, EuMC also features nine joint sessions with its sister conferences: EuMIC, ECWT and EuRAD. In addition, there are various workshops designed to encourage technical exchanges on certain topics, which will take place on Sunday 10 September and Friday 15 September.

Professor Tom Brazil’s industry overview

The RF and microwave sector is currently developing extremely strongly across the world and Europe is no exception. Wireless applications are now seen as fundamental to the European Union’s future vision of ‘ambient intelligence’ featuring ‘always-on’ connectivity for the citizen. Communications remains a key driver as GSM evolves through EDGE to advanced 4th generation systems, although there are great challenges in coping with the competing demands of linearity and efficiency in such emerging radio systems of very spectral efficiency.

It is also clear that reconfigurability, so natural at the digital level, will be also required at the level of the microwave transceiver, leading ultimately to the ‘cognitive radio’ that can sense its environment and intelligently adapt itself to meet user needs optimally. RF MEMS can play a part here but more generally there are strong developments in Europe around microsystems and nanosystems, featuring distributed wireless sensors integrating many novel sensor technologies and addressing various applications ranging from RFID, climate monitoring, security and biomedical systems.

While wideband gap semiconductors open up undreamed of possibilities for microwave power generation per unit device width, there is also an increasing interest in exploiting mm-wave frequencies from 60 GHz upwards. The advantages of lack of spectral congestion, large bandwidths and small antenna size have always been challenged in the past by high component cost, including packaging, but this is now beginning to be addressed by the remarkable progress in the high frequency behaviour of deep sub-micron Silicon-on-insulator technologies.

Significantly too, the high-end automotive sector is of key strategic importance to Europe’s economy and there is continuing interest in automotive radar systems at 77 GHz with the aim of dramatically reducing road injuries and fatalities. At much higher frequencies, there are intriguing signs in Europe that the terahertz region, long unexploited, is beginning to open up entirely new markets and opportunities.

Satellite technology has been strongly supported in Europe for civilian applications through agencies such as the European Space Agency (ESA), and the continuing deployment of the Galileo system over the coming years, working in conjunction with UMTS and personal communication devices, offers very interesting possibilities for new localisation services, even while the user is indoors.

Research in Europe takes place at a national level, but there is also a strong cooperative research ethos in Europe developed over many years of EU Framework Programmes (FPs). The current 6th FP is supporting many large microwave-related activities including power amplifiers (TARGET), RF MEMS (AMICOM), and antennas (ACE). The new 7th FP will extend over seven years with a budget of about €54 B and will be launched at the end of 2006. From the emerging shape of the technical content of FP7, wireless is everywhere both in terms of basic technologies and applications.

Overall, I believe the microwaves and RF sector is exciting, growing and of mainstream strategic importance with excellent future prospects.