German Merck and Intel in AI Research Project

10.03.2023 - German chemicals, pharmaceuticals and life sciences group Merck and US semiconductors giant Intel have signed a letter of intent to fund a European academic research program that will leverage artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning technologies to drive innovation.

Merck, which is a major supplier of materials and components for chip manufacturing, said the planned joint investment over three years dovetails with its goal of being climate-neutral by 2040.

The companies — both are members of the Semiconductor Climate Consortium founded in November 2022 — plan to invite suitable Europe-based research groups to apply for funding through a joint Call for Proposals process, beginning in this year’s second quarter.

Among new technologies and collaborations, the research will focus on developing new artificial intelligence programs with analytical capabilities to identify innovation potential. Potential solutions could include environmentally friendlier materials, more efficient use of resources, AI-based solutions for modeling chemical processes and opportunities for waste and emissions reductions.

Merck and Intel said they will work directly with the selected research groups during the program period, engaging closely with faculty and students. In addition to university funding from both companies, public co-funding of the program, including from European governments, will be sought to support the program’s ambitious, multi-disciplinary scope and goals.

Toward more sustainable solutions for semiconductor process technology new fundamental insights, methodologies and tools are needed — from material and process technology research and development through high-volume manufacturing — said David Nessim, program manager at Intel.

“The time is ripe to responsibly harness and accelerate the potential of AI to continue to deliver innovative pathways and breakthrough solutions,” he added.

As semiconductor manufacturing is very energy and resource intensive and practically calls for sustainable innovations, it is crucial to identify these cutting-edge practices and technologies while ensuring the stable performance of chips that are becoming smaller and more sensitive, said Beate Burkhart, head of the materials innovation pipeline for electronics at Merck.

Remarking that “artificial intelligence can open completely new avenues for us,” Burkhart said the Darmstadt-based group wants to combine expertise from science and practice. “We believe in the benefits of multidisciplinary collaboration to achieve innovative breakthroughs and positively change the entire industry.”

Author: Dede Williams, Freelance Journalist