The three-question interview with: Thierry Fench, Director of Innovation, Collaborations, and R&D Efficiency (ICE), STMicroelectronics, Grenoble

  • Can you tell us about STMicroelectronics’ IoT program?

STMicroelectronics’ current strategy in terms of markets addressed consists of two pillars. First, smart driving technologies based on our broad, deep knowledge of automotive electronics for safer, more environmentally-friendly, connected vehicles. Second, the Internet of Things (IoT), for industrial applications, smart homes and cities, and connected objects, which represents a market estimated at $150 billion.

The company recently restructured, focusing on three major product groups to better leverage the portfolio of technologies we deliver to our customers. These technologies include smart power, silicon carbide, mixed and analog technologies including photonics, specialized optical sensors and MEMS, and digital technologies like FD-SOI and embedded non-volatile memory.

And, for IoT in particular, smart objects can benefit from our microcontrollers’ excellent processing power and very low energy consumption. Our strategy for the smart home market is driven by our low-range connectivity and sensor solutions; our longer-range solutions will target the smart city market. Our security solutions are particularly well-suited to commercial and industrial applications.

  • How is STMicroelectronics working with SMBs and startups?

We are working more with SMBs and startups through our Innovation Booster program, which has several objectives.

  • Facilitate access to our extensive portfolio of products. This means giving these businesses accessible, innovative, and mature development and evaluation tools and fast industrial scale-up possibilities compatible with mass production. We also help them network with other small companies, distributors, and other innovation stakeholders.
  • Promote their solutions by promoting the STMicroelectronics products they integrate and by providing access to our Technodays and Innovation Nights awards.
  • Coordinate innovation ecosystems through local, national (Bpifrance Inno Generation, French Tech), and European (AIOTI Group) initiatives and by organizing conferences on specific technologies with startups, SMBs and corporations.
  • Shorten time to market by making STM32 development toolkits available (offering easy-to-use prototyping solutions) and ensuring access through a network of power users (tech support staff, consultants, outsourcers, fab labs) for enhanced responsiveness.

 In Grenoble, STMicroelectronics is reaching out to SMBs and startups at local trade shows and events (IoT Planet, MakerFaire, Minalogic events, Digital Grenoble, etc.) and is seeking out partnerships with these companies under local and international collaborative R&D projects. Facilitating access to ST technologies positions us to support the growth of local startups like ISKN and Alpwise, both of which won awards at our 2015 Innovation Night.

Our strategy of working closely with startups also takes another form: they can now open offices at several of our sites in France. These startups, which use our technologies and products, get a great deal of office space and benefit from our network of experts. STMicroelectronics’ Grenoble campus is home to startups Smartandblue (product: Hydrao) and Bluemintlabs (product: Bixi).

Most of the startups hosted at STMicroelectronics are focusing on IoT applications, and STMicroelectronics offers the underlying technologies used to design products in this field.

  •  How is the IRT Nanoelec PULSE program supporting STMicroelectronics’ IoT strategy?

 The IRT Nanoelec PULSE program positions us to work with integrators and to offer them our technologies. The Silverlab project (a PULSE initiative) leverages our STM32 microcontrollers and distance sensors; and another startup, this time in the medical industry, is using several STMicroelectronics technologies (image processor, Bluetooth low energy, and specialized imagers).

The program very nicely rounds out the other IRT Nanoelec tech-focused programs—like the Photonics and the 3D programs—in which we are also playing an active role.