Regional Advantage: Part 1- Pitting California's U.C. Berkeley against Belgium's IMEC

Note: Go To Regional Advantage: Part 2

This is a compare-and-contrast between California's U.C. Berkeley and IMEC in Leuven, Belgium. These two institutions, ironically, use almost the exact same words to describe (at least a portion of) their collaborative research mindset. But, I will argue that although the words may be the same, the ideas behind those words are completely different.

This week I'm going to give you a brief rundown of my impressions of Berkeley's recent EECS Annual Research Symposium held in the Bechtel Engineering Center on the U.C. Berkeley campus on February 23, 2006. It was a one-day event with about 350 people in attendance. The morning was full of presentations; the afternoon offered opportunities to visit the many research labs around campus that are associated with the EECS Department at Cal.

In my next EDA Weekly, we're going to talk about IMEC. I visited IMEC in Belgium in mid-October 2005, where I attended their annual research symposium as well. There were about 40 press people there for the first 2 days of the week, which was the pre-symposium press briefing. That event included presentations, a day trip to Eindhoven, and a visit to a clean room at ASML. The actual symposium itself had many hundreds of attendees, and consumed the last 3 days of that same week.

I hope you'll stay tuned for both parts of this discussion.

EECS Research Symposium - February 23, 2006

The U.C. Berkeley campus is at the center of the dynamic, always politically charged city of Berkeley, California. The views from the campus sweep out across the San Francisco Bay and focus on the legendary Golden Gate Bridge, the mystical city of San Francisco to the left of the Bridge, and the voluptuous curves of the Marin Headlines to the right. Just being on the Cal campus, and looking out at that vista, is enough to inspire creativity and innovation even in ordinary mortals.

But the School of Engineering at U.C. Berkeley is not populated by ordinary mortals. For starters, it has one of the largest engineering enrollments in the U.S. and, per some, one of the brightest student populations in the country and the world. Within the School of Engineering, the EECS Department at Cal has 90 full-time faculty members, 500 graduate students - mostly PhD candidates, and 1100 undergraduates. Department Chair Jitendra Malik says EECS at Cal is unmatched anywhere for the "quality and impact of the teaching and research" that goes on in the department.

But there's more. The School of Engineering is headed up by EDA golden boy Richard Newton, winner of the coveted Phil Kaufman Award and highly visible investor/co-motivator behind the successes of both Cadence and Synopsys. What this guy doesn't know about high-profile personas, public speaking, managing academia, sitting on corporate boards, teaching, synthesizing ideas, investing, and drawing the shortest line between two points, probably isn't worth knowing.

So when Richard Newton decides to give a talk entitled the "Future of the Future," it probably warrants a minute or two of your time to listen in. Newton's masterful when it comes to pulling together societal and technical threads and drawing conclusions that you probably already recognized, but maybe hadn't articulated way up there in the more verbal lobes of your brain.

His address, the final presentation of the overall EECS Symposium event on February 23rd, was compelling. He may have given it before, but it was new to me and I wasn't the only one in the auditorium who was tracking closely.

Please note before we review the highlights of Dr. Newton's talk that there are at least two ways that big universities in the U.S. can make money. One is, they send in their 20-year-old basketball or football studs to score big wins on national television during NCAA tournaments. The second is, they send in their 30- and 40-year-old technology studs to score big wins with national and international industries who then invest in the university's research infrastructure.

As a Cal grad, I'm sorry to say that U.C. Berkeley didn't make it past the first round of the NCAA basketball "March Madness" this year. But also as a Cal grad, I can assure you that the EECS Department is very capable of making their own Big Wins, even if the University's athletes can not.

The EECS Research Symposium consisted of 7 addresses, each 20 to 30 minutes long. The speakers on February 23rd included:

* Dr. George Necula speaking on "The Future of Correct Software"
* Dr. Jan Rabaey speaking about "The Future of Wireless Infrastructure"
* Dr. John Canny speaking about "The Future of Mobile Applications"
* Dr. Marc Davis who teamed up with Canny to discuss "The Future of Mobile Applications"
* Dr. David Wagner speaking on "The Future of Software Security"
* Dr. Chenming Calvin Hu speaking on "The Future of CMOS and Memory"
* Dr. David Patterson speaking on "The Future of Computer Architecture"
* Dr. Richard Newton speaking on "The Future of the Future"

Please be aware that this entire program is now available online - the audio portion of the presentations as well as the slides. Carve out 3 or 4 hours and go listen.

[Editor's Note: Unfortunately, the EECS event was held on exactly the same day as DVCon 2006 in San Jose. There were a number of important EDA players at Berkeley on February 23rd who might have wanted to be at DVCon, but couldn't be in two places at once. Hopefully, somebody will keep closer tabs on the calendar going forward. Having to make a choice was ridiculous.]

Dr. Richard Newton on "The Future of the Future"

Dr. Newton started by quoting an associate who said going forward into the future is like driving a car into an impenetrable fog where you can't see a foot ahead of your windshield, but the view in the rear view mirror is very clear.

Newton said the massive global restructuring going on before our very eyes means that, where as the 20th century was the Century of Big Science, the 21st century will be the Century of the Engineer. And those engineers need to figure out how to apply the Big Science Wins of the 20th Century to the Big "E" Challenges of the 21st:

** Energy - that's sustainable and low cost
** Epidemics - curing the diseases that plague the neglected parts of the world
** Education - in particular, educating women out of their second-class status in many societies

"If we at great research universities don't step in to solve these problems, who else will - or can?" Newton asked his audience. He argued that with the demise, or diminution, of great corporate research laboratories such as those at Bell Labs, Xerox Parc, IBM, HP, and Infinion - with only Microsoft Research still viable, in his estimation - it falls to the great universities to work collaboratively to tackle today's complex global issues and solve them.

[Editor's note: Dr. Newton's passion is the CITRUS center at U.C. Berkeley - The Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society. He said the faculty, students, and industrial partners at the Center are addressing the enormous global issues facing technologists today.]

Newton described his vision of a great research university as a "Demilitarized Zone of Research" where companies can come together with great faculty and great students to work collaboratively on problems important to us all.

He said that reduced corporate investments into long-term research, mean that "pre-competitive collaborative" sites like U.C. Berkeley, in association with government labs like Lawrence Berkeley Labs, as well as SLAC (The Stanford Linear Accelerator), UCSF (The University of California's Health Science Center and School in San Francisco), and Stanford University (in nearby Palo Alto), can provide a heady collection of resources and "really smart people," to create a geographic epicenter for creativity and sustainable innovation.

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Review Article
  • Great article April 04, 2006
    Reviewed by 'David White'
    I am sure glad that Peggy is back. Well written and proofread with an excellent conclusion. I just wrote an article on "The Experimenter" for a online mag for the amateur radio community and wish I had read this article before finishing mine.

    Very, very, well done.

    Thanks so much Peggy for coming back and writing for the EdaCafe and will be looking for more of your articles.


    David White

      2 of 2 found this review helpful.
      Was this review helpful to you?   (Report this review as inappropriate)

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