Horizon 2020 has evolved from vision to reality. Can it provide the focus to ensure Europe’s global competitiveness and does the European RF and microwave industry have the foresight and expertise to both contribute and benefit?
Muttered only in hushed tones in the corridors of power and the boardrooms of industry in Europe, the words ‘economic’ and ‘recovery’ are tentatively being combined once again. After years of austerity, which has seen a squeeze on funding, cut backs in services and a rationalization of resources, the general consensus is that there is justification for cautious optimism.
Although it would be premature, foolhardy and amnesic to pronounce – crisis, what crisis just yet – green shoots of recovery are starting to emerge through the gloom of recession. They will need to be carefully nurtured, nourished financially and protected from the vagaries and harsh realities of the global market.
According to the latest Innovation Union Competitiveness Report, the EU is facing increasing world competition, in particular, at the higher end of global value chains. In 2011, more than 70 percent of the world’s knowledge creation was taking place outside the EU. However, it still remains the main centre for knowledge production in the world, accounting for almost a third of the world’s science and technology production and continues to be an attractive location for R&D investment.
The EU report also identifies that science and technology development in the U.S. and Asia tends to be more strategic than in the EU and more focused on transformative technologies targeted towards emerging global markets; while technologically the EU is more focused on established and traditional industries.
Encouragingly, evidence from the European Commission’s Innovation Union Scoreboard 2014 and the Regional Innovation Scoreboard 2014 indicates that Europe is closing its innovation gap with the United States and Japan. It states that overall progress has been driven by the openness and attractiveness of the EU research system as well as business innovation collaboration – a testament to the Framework Programmes (FP) that Horizon 2020 aims to take forward.
At a global level, the scoreboard shows that South Korea, the U.S. and Japan have an innovation performance lead over the EU. However, the EU continues to outperform Australia, Canada and all BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) countries. While this lead is stable or slightly increasing, the exception is China, which is evolving at pace.
Against this background it is imperative that Europe remains competitive in order to sustain economic recovery. That means growth based on innovative products and services that can compete in global markets. Europe cannot compete on costs, so fostering commercially viable innovation is a prerequisite for growth.
In the race to prosperity, the European RF and microwave industry is in pole position, at the forefront of key technologies such as mobile communications and wireless technologies, which are sought-after commodities playing a vital role in today’s society. Through its research, innovation and industrial activities, the RF and microwaves sector is addressing the issues of today, tackling technological challenges and striving to create real business opportunities.
As an entity the RF and microwave industry is extensive and far reaching, influencing a multitude of markets and impacting the everyday lives of citizens as well as the economic stability of many nations. The industry’s enterprise, scale and technological trends are outlined in the RF and Microwave sector interview by EuMC 2014 Chair, Lorenzo Mariani, that appears later in this report.
Mariani points out that microwaves are a core technology for civilian, defence, and security application systems such as wireless communications, sensor networks and radar systems. He emphasises the rapid re-emergence of wireless communications, the significant role of ‘adjacent technologies’ such as ICT and the development of ‘microwave photonics’ in electronic RF based systems including radar.
According to EuRAD 2014 Chair Enzo Dalle Mese, the main areas of development in the radar arena are: passive, imaging, antennas and miniaturization. He also highlights the significance of the major expansion of civil applications and predicts that by taking advantage of the reduction of hardware – allied to the progress in semiconductor power devices and integrated circuit development – “radar on a chip” could become reality.
Indeed, semiconductor and IC technology are opening up new horizons. GaAs and silicon-based IC technologies are extensively used in modern systems, while emerging technologies such as wide bandgap semiconductors (GaN, SiC, etc.), InP/Antimonide CNT and Graphene-based devices are expected to become commercially available in the not too distant future. Such technology’s potential to have a major impact on system performance is likely to have significant implications.
In his overview of the Semiconductors and IC sector, EuMIC 2014 Chair Franco Giannini, recognizes the significant progress in RF system miniaturization and the reduction of total power consumption, but he also sees major challenges for RF integrated circuits related to mobile communications. Giannini envisions microwave semiconductor technologies playing a key role in civil and defence systems as well as in the space environment for communications, particularly remote sensing for Earth observation and radiometry.
The ‘space environment’ Giannini refers to has changed dramatically in recent years. It has become a global business and is no longer the sole preserve of a few powerful nations. With the European space industry facing increasing competition from new emerging space powers such as China and India, it is vital to ensure that it can thrive and compete in the global marketplace. That is one of the reasons why EU space research is identified by Horizon 2020 as one of Europe’s ‘key industrial technologies,’ with Horizon 2020 dedicating €1.7 billion to space research and innovation.
Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) have come to the forefront. The launch of major projects such as the European Galileo and Chinese Beidou/Compass as well as the introduction of two new regional navigational systems – Indian Regional Navigational Satellite System and the Japanese Quasi-Zenith Satellite System – is increasing the availability of GNSS solutions.
We are also seeing the implementation of commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) GNSS solutions which can be utilized both commercially and by the military with Frost & Sullivan’s Military Global Navigation Satellite Systems Market Assessment, finding that the market earned revenues of $1.98 billion in 2013 and estimates this to reach $2.18 billion in 2022 at a compound annual growth rate of 1.1 percent.
Considering defence in general, Frost & Sullivan’s Global Defence Outlook found that defence procurement spending was $600 billion in 2013 and is expected to reach $660 billion in 2018. Command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR) contributed the most to market revenues in 2013 due to the high demand for radars, optical sensors, sonars and secure flexible networks.
It is precisely to encourage, support and sustain such ‘industry’ that Horizon 2020 has been formulated to build on the Framework Programmes which have played their part in encouraging growth during a difficult trading period. After a long gestation period and much touting, the EU has put ?80 billion of funding where its mouth is for Horizon 2020. The funding available over seven years (2014 to 2020) is one of the few areas of the EU’s new budget to see a major increase in resources and is claimed to be around 30 percent more, in real terms, than FP7’s budget.
Horizon 2020 is the financial instrument implementing the Innovation Union, which has the political backing of Europe’s leaders and the Members of the European Parliament. Research is seen as an investment in the future that is at the heart of the EU’s blueprint for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth and jobs. The goal is to ensure Europe produces world-class science, removes barriers to innovation and makes it easier for the public and private sectors to work together in delivering innovation.
Significant to the RF and microwave industry is that a key reform in Horizon 2020 will fund innovation as well as research and it is actively encouraging and investing in key enabling technologies such as ICT, nanotechnology, materials and production technology.
Its stated aim is to provide support at every step of the journey from ‘lab to market,’ offering companies – large, medium and small – numerous opportunities to take part. In addition, more money is available for testing, prototyping, demonstration and pilot type activities; for business-driven R&D; for promoting entrepreneurship and risk-taking; and for shaping demand of innovative products and services.
The next section of this report explains in more detail the structure and key initiatives of Horizon 2020 and the mechanisms in place in order to achieve those goals.
Specific efforts have been made to cut red-tape and major simplification will be facilitated by a single set of rules. As previously mentioned, the Horizon 2020 programme is different from the seven previous framework programmes because for the first time it focuses on innovation rather than research and development and puts a greater emphasis on the deployment of technologies and their path to market.
Small to medium sized enterprises (SME) are the lifeblood coursing through the veins of the European economy and they are a vital component of the RF and microwave industry.
A key ingredient of Horizon 2020 is Innovation in SMEs, which aims to attract more SMEs to Horizon 2020, provide support to a wider range of innovative activities and help to increase the economic impact of project results by its company-focused and market-driven approach.
Financially, Innovation in SMEs funds additional activities intended to support entrepreneurship, internationalization, and improved access to markets through the Competitiveness of Enterprises and Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (COSME) programme.
COSME will run from 2014 to 2020 with a planned budget of €2.3 billion and offer two different financial instruments. Under the Loan Guarantee Facility, the COSME budget will fund guarantees and counter-guarantees for financial intermediaries to help them provide more loan and lease finances to SMEs. Via the Equity Facility for Growth, the COSME budget will also be invested in funds that provide venture capital and mezzanine finances to expansion and growth-stage SMEs, particularly those operating across borders.
Providing SMEs access to potential markets is viewed as a priority, with COSME funding IPR SME Helpdesks for China, ASEAN and Mercosur in order to help small and medium enterprises deal with issues relating to intellectual property rights in these countries.
The EUREKA and Eurostars Programmes, which regular readers of this annual report will be familiar with, are now entering the next phase, whereby the second EUREKA/Eurostars Joint Programme Initiative (2014-2020) will provide funding for market-oriented transnational collaborative R&D projects. EUREKA, like Horizon 2020, is a European platform for research focusing on turning new technologies into marketable products.
Eurostars is a European funding programme specifically dedicated to SMEs focusing on innovative technologies that pools together national resources, with the aim of strengthening integration and synchronization of national research programmes contributing to the achievement of a European Research Area. Its success under FP7 has tripled the Horizon 2020 budget for the Eurostars programme.
The Research Executive Agency (REA) is a funding body created by the European Commission to maximize the efficiency and impact of EU research and innovation programmes. REA manages the four pillars of the Horizon 2020 Framework Programme for Research and Innovation: excellent science, industrial leadership, societal challenges and cross-cutting themes. The first two are of particular interest to RF and microwave companies.
Excellent science encompasses Future and Emerging Technologies (FET), which fund collaboration between advanced multidisciplinary science and cutting-edge engineering. It is intended to help Europe grasp leadership early on in promising future technology areas and provide the basis for future European competitiveness and growth. Under Horizon 2020, FET actions have been allocated a provisional budget of €2,696 million.
Industrial Leadership will focus on space research. The motto for EU Space R&D from 2014 to 2020 under Horizon 2020 is, ‘Prepare for the increasing role of space in the future and reap the benefits of space now.’ The main objective of the space research initiative is to foster a cost-effective competitive and innovative space industry (including SMEs) and the research community to develop and exploit space infrastructure to meet future union policy and societal needs.
Building on the successes of FP7, Horizon 2020 will enable the European space research community to develop innovative space technologies and operational concepts – from an idea to demonstration in space – and to use space data for scientific, public, or commercial purposes. Actions will be carried out in conjunction with research activities of the Member States and the European Space Agency (ESA), aimed at building up complementarity among different players.
To achieve its goals, Horizon 2020 requires adequate and accessible funding. Therefore, the European Commission and the European Investment Bank Group (EIB) have launched a new generation of EU financial instruments and advisory services to help innovative firms access finance more easily.
Over the next seven years, it is expected that the InnovFin – EU Finance for Innovators’ range of tailored products will make more than €24 billion in financing available for research and innovation by small, medium and large companies and promoters of research infrastructures. This financing is expected to support up to €48 billion of final R&I investments. The tailored products range from guarantees for intermediaries that lend to SMEs, to direct loans, to enterprises.
The Horizon 2020 programme is designed to generate an environment that will encourage research, innovation and growth. The European RF and microwave industry is in a good position to take advantage and move forward. The activity and technological prowess of the industry will be effectively demonstrated at the 2014 European Microwave Week in Rome, Italy in October. Therefore, this report has enlisted the Chairmen of the three 2014 EuMW conferences – the European Microwave Conference (EuMC), the European Microwave Integrated Circuits (EuMIC) Conference and the European Radar Conference (EuRAD) to offer insight into key areas of development and identify future trends.
RF and Microwaves
Sector overview by Lorenzo Mariani, EuMC 2014 Chair
In the 20th century, engineering recorded major achievements – with RF and microwave technology playing a pivotal role. In the 21st century, the problem of sustaining civilization’s continued advancement, while still improving the quality of life, is the immediate challenge. Old and new threats to society as a whole demand more efficient and readily available engineering solutions. RF and microwave technologies can continue to play a key role in this endeavour and the 2014 European Microwave Conference will play its part in moving technology forward.
Microwaves is a core technology for civilian, defence and security application systems, such as wireless communications, sensor networks and radar systems. The rapid re-emergence of wireless communications (after G. Marconi’s discovery, Nobel laureate 1909) in all facets of today’s society has given microwave technology renewed prominence.
Typical enabling microwave basic technologies, devices and assemblies are: passive components and filters, tunable devices, microwave interconnects and packaging, MMICs, UWB systems, wireless power transfer and energy harvesting, biosensors, simulation and characterization tools, low phase noise equipment, high power density GaN-HEMT transistors and technical solutions for heat management.
The ‘classical microwave perimeter’ is quickly expanding, not only because of the presence of new Asian players contributing to the technology evolution, increasing the global investment in the field, but also because of the role of ‘adjacent technologies’ such as ICT. The increase in frequencies and bandwidths for communications is fostering a ‘novel approach’ in the microwave domain as is the case with fibre optics, enabling so-called ‘Microwave Photonics’ in electronic RF based systems including radar.
Significantly, an ultimate frontier, the concept of ‘material by design’ and the ability to control the RF macroscopic performance at the design stage with a multi-scale approach (from atomic/molecular to macroscopic behaviour) is becoming a new powerful tool in the hand of microwave engineers.
The RF and microwave sectors in Europe are steadily developing despite growing worldwide competition in the fields of mobile communication devices, manufacturing and R&D activities shifting to Asia.
Currently the European Union is preparing new frameworks through Horizon 2020 to strengthen the competitiveness of the micro-electronics and nano-electronics activities and preserve Europe’s strong position in these high-tech fields. In the Research and Innovation sector, it is evident that microwaves are pervasively entering into several work programmes. ICT is the most relevant together with security. Similarly, adequate investment in R&D is being undertaken by the European Defence Agency in the security sector where different kinds of microwave and terahertz sensors are being studied and developed.
New trends in the education of microwave engineers are focusing on emerging technologies and innovative design techniques: multi-disciplinary professional competence is becoming a ‘must’. To maintain and grow microwave know-how, the professional status of engineers should be properly encouraged and recognized, for instance, by continuing certified education and by the institution of ‘chartered RF and microwave engineer’ status. Such professional acknowledgement should shape the education in the microwave domain, and enhance microwave engineers’ CVs. The spread of web technology enables and encourages distance education and collaborative projects among teachers and peers around the globe.
Europe is playing a significant role in the future development of RF and microwave technology. I am certain that EuMW and the EuMC conference in particular will provide new ideas and forge new paths in improving the quality of peoples’ lives around the globe.
ICs & Semiconductors
Sector overview by Franco Giannini, EuMIC 2014 Chair
(In collaboration with Ernesto Limiti, Co-Chair, and Paolo Colantonio, TPC Chair)
This century semiconductor and integrated circuit technology, covering frequencies from microwaves to the submillimetre-wave region, have recorded major achievements, as will be demonstrated at the 9th European Microwave Integrated Circuits Conference (EuMIC).
One of the major challenges for RF integrated circuits is related to mobile communications, where industry faces an ever-increasing demand for higher data rates, more compact solutions and high performance front ends. Several contributors at EuMIC will demonstrate the remarkable progress in RF systems miniaturization and the reduction of total power consumption, both achieved through RF CMOS or similar technologies.
Regarding III-V semiconductor technology, the main trends demonstrated by the market to date indicate that GaAs will be the preferred semiconductor alloy for the majority of MMIC industrial users with a forecast of about 31 percent share by 2018. However, GaN technology is forecast to grow from its current 20 percent share up to 24 percent in 2018. Similarly, SiGe adoption continues, reaching an estimated 25 percent share in the same period.
Such microwave semiconductor technologies are playing a key role, not only in civil and defence systems, but also in the space environment for communications, remote sensing for Earth observation and radiometry. As an example, GaN HEMTs are becoming strategic, enabling components for both high performance and/or wideband Tx/Rx systems, as well as for very high power solid state transmitters. The impact of GaN technology is emphasized at system-level, enabling the reduction in size and cost, maximization of operational bandwidth and enhancement of detection.
After the completion of several significant research projects at the beginning of this century, these technologies are reaching maturity. EuMIC will offer a European perspective for the industrialization and exploitation of GaN and other technologies. A foundry panel session will divulge details of currently released and commercially available processes, together with those still in development and/or planned, with expected release dates and current status.
Sector overview by Enzo Dalle Mese, EuRAD 2014 Chair
(In collaboration with Fabrizio Berizzi, TPC-Chair)
The radar sector is a growing research area for both industry and academia, mainly due to the huge expansion of civil applications, which is increasingly being demanded by the market. The 11th European Radar Conference assembles advanced high value scientific and technological contributions from industry and academia that demonstrates the technological growth in this sector. The main areas of radar development are: passive, imaging, antennas and miniaturization.
Passive radar uses the electromagnetic signals produced by illuminators of opportunity to enable radar functionality. The concept is not new, but the developments in digital hardware technologies and software capabilities have facilitated the practical realization of low cost operative systems. Currently, research is focused on the use of digital transmissions and satellite signals, which enable worldwide coverage. In addition, research is focused on the application of traditional radar concepts to passive radar, such as MIMO passive radar and imaging passive radar, as well as extending the platform to aerial and naval applications.
Imaging is becoming an essential feature of new radars and it is easy to predict that most future radar systems will have this option. The spatial resolution of this technique is improving, due to the increase of the long-term coherence of the transmitted waveform and the development of sophisticated super resolution techniques that make use of recent compressive sensing techniques. In addition, increasing the performance of the processing subsystems makes the real-time goal feasible. Imaging radars give a clear display of the target to the operator and improve the environmental situational awareness thanks to new graphical user interfaces. Finally, the high resolution of the target image addresses the automatic target recognition problem, resulting in dramatic improvement.
Antennas are probably the most important radar subsystem. Future antennas will have reduced size; they will be active, with large bandwidth and often operate in an array configuration. Most are integrated in multifunction systems and are used both for radar and telecommunications. A good, high performance antenna is the primary subsystem that contributes to the overall performance of the radar.
In the near future one of the most important challenges will be to reduce size and weight, which is becoming a pre-requisite for many military and most civil applications, where low or very low power is essential, together with the need to minimise space and payload.
By taking advantage of the reduction of hardware (for example, software defined radar), allied to the progress in semiconductor power devices and integrated circuit development we could see radar on a chip become reality.
In summary, the radar sector is in a period of rapid and deep growth. It is not only benefiting itself from technological development but new radar innovations are often drivers for fuelling future technological progress.
As mentioned in the sector overviews, the European RF and microwave industry is healthy and playing its part in the evolution of technology and the implementation of innovation.
To enable such endeavours to come to fruition and benefit individual companies, partnerships, nations and Europe as a whole, it is imperative that Europe maintains a strong industrial base that can compete globally. Greater, uncomplicated business investments, a strong demand for European technological solutions and fewer obstacles to the commercial uptake of innovations are the keys to growth.
Horizon 2020 has been formulated to provide the mechanisms to make that possible. Now is the moment of truth when, over the coming years, we will discover if Horizon 2020 is truly visionary and can facilitate the transition necessary to take the EU industry forward and keep it competitive.