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Stanford Reboots Center for Integrated Systems To Launch SystemX Alliance

Stanford University has rebooted its famed Center for Integrated Systems, relaunching the research lab as the SystemX Alliance. While the initial idea for CIS and its leadership has evolved, one aspect of the lab that hasn't is its ties to industry.

CIS was initially formed as a model of partnership between the university and "member" industrial firms to generate "world-class research" and spawn PhD graduates in fields tied to integrated systems. Among the industry members were electronics biggies HP, Texas Instruments, IBM, Canon, Toshiba and NEC.

Instead of maintaining a "device"-level view of innovation, which those companies sought, SystemX will take a "systems-level" approach with six areas of research focus:

  • Bio interfaces for healthcare;
  • Design productivity;
  • Energy and power management;
  • Heterogeneous integration;
  • Internet of everything; and
  • Photonic and quantum technologies.

"For 30 years, CIS was the model of industry-university partnership to support advanced research in microelectronics," said Stanford President John Hennessy. "SystemX is updating that model to spur innovation in what we call the technology stack and open up new possibilities for sensing, communication and computing technologies."

The alliance will be co-directed on the faculty side by two new additions: H.-S. Philip Wong, a professor of electrical engineering, and Boris Murmann, an associate professor of electrical engineering. They'll work alongside Yoshio Nishi, a professor of electrical engineering and former CIS director of research who will now chair the SystemX faculty board.

"The model in Silicon Valley since the 1970s has been to make better chips and then see what we can do with them. It was a bottom-up approach," said Wong. SystemX will turn that model on its head, he added. Researchers and industry partners will decide what they want to do and design the technology stack to address the purpose or adapt current technology to new uses.

The new structure of the alliance will help companies identify which Stanford faculty are working on topics of interest to them, said Wong. "That process used to happen by word of mouth, but SystemX formalizes the process of pairing companies with researchers."

"Industry is great at making technologies commercially viable to improve how we live, and Stanford engineering is great for exploratory research. SystemX brings those two together in a new way that benefits both," noted Alliance Executive Director Richard Dasher, who is also a consulting professor of electrical engineering. "That X is there for a reason. It's about the open-ended nature of our collaboration. The possibilities for SystemX are endless."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @schaffhauser.

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