Korean Tech Companies Eye UTD Consortium

Korean Tech Companies Eye UTD Concortium

As many as five South Korean technology companies could open branch offices in Texas to be close to a $14.4 million, public-private research consortium centered at the University of Texas at Dallas.

Known as "Texas Fusion," the consortium is one of three nationwide that are financed partly by the South Korean government and focused on semiconductors. Texas Fusion -- short for "Future Semiconductor Commercialization" -- is looking at ways to make chips "smaller, faster and more energy-efficient," according to UTD.

Another consortium, centered at California's Stanford University, is focused on how chips are manufactured, while one at the University of California at Berkeley is centered on chip design.

UTD says Texas Fusion has the most funding of the three, including $6 million coming from the South Korean government and $5 million from the Texas Emerging Technology Fund spread over four years. Sources for the remaining funding include the federal government and private industry.

"The real idea of putting this together is driven by the fact that Texas is being so aggressive about being a player in international science," says Dr. Andrew Blanchard, senior associate dean of the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science at UTD.

In addition to UTD, researchers will participate in the work at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas and the UT campuses at Austin and Tyler.

Private-sector members of the consortium include Samsung Austin Semiconductor, Military Tech LLC, Richardson's IntelliEPi, TriQuint Semiconductor Inc., Raytheon Co., Dallas' Texas Instruments and a group of South Korean companies: Siltron, Jusung, Dongjin Semi, Poongsan, KC Tech, DMS and New Power Plasma.

Siltron has a Dallas office, while Jusung has a presence in Austin.

Dr. Moon J. Kim, a professor of electrical engineering at UTD and director of the school's Nano-Characterization Facility, says the other five Korean firms may eventually establish Texas locations if the research goes according to plan.

"The main goal of this, on the Korean side of the program, is to help small and medium-sized businesses in Korea with a specialty in semiconductor equipment and materials to broaden their business, size and visibility, to go beyond Korea," he says. "Eventually, in an era of globalization, you want to go abroad."

Young Hwa Joh, a director at DMS, says the company is considering opening a branch office here. Whether that happens will depend on how its projects with Texas Fusion go.

Commercializing research

On the Texas side of the equation, Kim says, the focus is on commercializing research and development. "We're not trying to market a particular product, but the role of the consortium is to expedite university products into the marketplace," Kim says.

UTD says the technologies produced by the consortium will be available both to members of the consortium and to other companies based in Texas that have licensing agreements with the UT system. "Joint ownership of Texas Fusion-developed technologies will follow UT system rules for commercialization," UTD says in a news release.

The potential applications for technologies emerging from Texas Fusion are diverse, according to Kim. They range from imaging of kidney stones to using nanotechnology for painless drug delivery and low-power devices for medical diagnostics.

The research also will focus on so-called "system on a chip" technology. According to Synopsys, a California maker of software for chip design and manufacturing, system on a chip technology involves combining several chips with different functions onto a single chip.

UTD officials say that if Texas Fusion works as planned, they will have the opportunity to seek more funding and expand the program.

"If the concept works correctly, we will have the opportunity to have a national presence," Blanchard says. "Moon and I are looking at the next step to expand the organizational process to look at other universities and other technologies. But before more money comes in, he adds, "we've got to deliver first."

Dr. Moon Kim, right, and Young Hwa Joh are part of a public-private consortium centered at the University of Texas at Dallas that is improving how semiconductors function.

Dallas Business Journal - by Jeff Bounds Staff Writer

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