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Academics take up 'grand challenge'

Pocket sized supercomputers and zero power mobile phones are just two of the key challenges which UK engineers have set themselves for the next 20 years.

The goals have been set as part of the Grand Challenges in Microelectronic Design, a scheme funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and coordinated by the University of Southampton.
Key investigators are Professor Andrew Brown (University of Southampton), Professor Steve Furber (University of Manchester) and Professor Roger Woods (Queen’s University Belfast). “We have pulled together some of the best brains in the UK in this field to address some of the long term challenges so that we can boost our input to the knowledge economy,” said Dr Peter Wilson from the University of Southampton’s School of Electronics & Computer Science (ECS), pictured.
A number of meetings has determined four grand challenges. The researchers propose to:
* Build an electronic brain, inspired by the principles of operation of biological brains;
* Develop pocket sized supercomputers which will deliver as much computing power as a whole building of today’s machines, as part of a drive to deliver ‘Moore for less’;
* Create a mobile phone which will not need batteries but will use renewable energy sources; and
* Embark on a ‘Silicon meets life’ initiative, through which they plan to develop transparent interfaces between living organisms and electronics allowing active prosthesis and biometrics.
Professor Steve Furber added: “The UK has great strengths in microelectronic design and the Common Vision activity has provided a focus for the high quality, but distributed, academic research. From the outset, we have involved industrial researchers in our workshops and there has been a very positive reaction to what we have proposed. The next phase is to bring this to the attention of the wider industrial community.”

Graham Pitcher

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