Since its foundation in 1985, the GMe has recognized the following four focal points for its activities, which are listed here in chronological order:
These focal-point activities, and some comments on the impact of the GMe on Austrian industry, are presented in the following sections, in the order of their current importance.
The currently sole task of the GMe is closely linked to the construction and the operation of technological installations, in particular, of the cleanroom laboratories in Vienna and Linz. In 1992, the Austrian Federal Ministry of Science and Research invited the GMe to act as a coordinator for the construction of the "Microstructure Center (Mikrostrukturzentrum - MISZ) Vienna" (since 2004 "Center for Micro- and Nanostructures (Zentrum für Mikro- und Nanostrukturen - ZMNS)") in Vienna. The MISZ Vienna finished construction by the end of 1993 and went into operation in June 1994. The coordination of the construction and negotiations with the vendors of laboratory equipment carried out by the GMe significantly contributed to a swift progress and saving of equipment expenses. The GMe now provides with its funds a vital part of the infrastructure operation costs for the cleanroom laboratories in Vienna and Linz, which is particularly important since the infrastructure expenses can neither be fully covered by the budget of the involved institutes, nor from projects.
The following university institutes are currently supported within this focal point activity:
One of the most rewarding potentials of microelectronics technology is related to applications in sensors: A large variety of possible sensors can be realized with comparatively modest technological resources, which makes them commercially quite interesting. During the nineties, the GMe supported broad sensor-related activities, mainly at the Vienna University of Technology, that led to sensors for medical, environmental, and technical applications, many of which could meanwhile be commercialized or have, at least, found commercial interest. Since 1998, budgetary constraints forced the GMe to abandon the support of microsensor research as such; there is a relatively modest support still for the high-tech technological infrastructure required for creating micro and nano-sensors.
The following university institute participated during the nineties in this focal point activity:
The ASIC-related activities of the GMe during the eighties and nineties were closely linked to the requirements of the Austrian industry. Based on groups at the Technical Universities Graz and Vienna, and using equipment and software which were purchased from GMe funding, two major actions were pursued: (1) ASIC projects for partners in the Austrian industry, ranging from feasibility studies to the design of ASICs that were commercially produced; and (2) the education and training of engineers in the area of ASIC design. Due to its close links to industrial requirements, UNICHIP played a leading role in Austria. The UNICHIP groups also had a long-standing tradition in European cooperation; many years before Austria joined the EU, they participated in the "EUROCHIP" European project, which was succeeded by the "EUROPRACTICE" program.
A larger operation named "Technologieverbund Mikroelektronik Österreich - TMOe" was launched in late 1996. The TMOe was essentially organized by the GMe and based on federal and local government funding backed by contributions of the Austrian industry. It extended the UNICHIP activities to all Austrian university institutes that were involved in ASIC design.
For budgetary reasons, the GMe had to discontinue its financial support for the TMOe program in 1998.
At the time of the termination of the support of the TMOe program by the GMe, the following university institutes partook in this focal point activity:
Between 1985 and approximately 1995, the GMe pursued this project in close cooperation with the Viennese company IMS Nanofabrication AG, which has developed ion projection lithography to the stage of practical application. The GMe bought one of their first IPL units. Researchers at the Technical University Vienna, supported by the GMe, also contributed essentially with their scientific and technical work to the establishment of the IPL technology. This technology permits a reduction of the structure dimensions of microelectronic devices and micro-mechanical components well below 100 nm. The results stemming from the joint efforts of IMS and the GMe led to a world-wide interest in IPL. For the GMe, the IPL project has thus been successfully completed.
Although, as mentioned above, the funding provided by the GMe currently is exclusively restricted to university institutions, Austrian industrial enterprises still benefit from it indirectly. The mechanisms involved depend on the particular area of work of the institutes involved but are more or less present in all activities supported by the GMe: