An event for neuro-inspired hardware at Forschungszentrum Jülich

The Cluster4Future NeuroSys and the project NEUROTEC have invited about 200 guests from science, industry and politics to Forschungszentrum Jülich on 30 August 2023, to discuss the potential of neuro-inspired hardware for artificial intelligence and to present the current state of development in the field of neuromorphic computing in the Aachen-Jülich region.

From left to right: NEUROTEC coordinator Prof. Rainer Waser, FZJ chair Prof. Astrid Lambrecht, RWTH rector Prof. Ulrich Rüdiger, BMBF state secretary Prof. Sabine Döring, MKW-NRW state minister Thorsten Menne, NeuroSys coordinator Prof. Max Lemme (Copyright: Forschungszentrum Jülich / Kurt Steinhausen)

Neuromorphic systems, modeled on the functioning of the human brain, promise to train and operate artificial intelligence (AI) processes much more efficiently than is possible with conventional digital computers. And much more efficient means by several orders of magnitude.  Neuromorphic chips are already being used for certain applications, such as image processing in high-end smartphones. But to really unleash the power of neuromorphic computing, it will be necessary to move away from conventional digital technology based on transistors and adopt novel device concepts that are better suited to emulating the plasticity of the brain.

In the Aachen-Jülich region, there are currently two major BMBF-funded initiatives working synergistically towards the goal of establishing the region as a leading location for European AI hardware. One is the NEUROTEC project coordinated by Prof. Rainer Waser of Forschungszentrum Jülich and RWTH Aachen University. The other is Cluster4Future NeuroSys, coordinated by Prof. Max Lemme, head of the Department of Electronic Devices at RWTH Aachen University and director of AMO GmbH. “Whoever has the chip will have the application,” says Prof. Lemme, “and the paradigm shift from standard CMOS technology to novel neuromorphic technologies is a chance for Europe to regain shares in the semiconductor industry.”

Prof. Max Lemme and Dr. Thorsten Wahlbrink at the AMO booth (Copyright: AMO GmbH)

Since 2022, NUROTEC and NeuroSys jointly organize the Neuromorphic Computing Day in the library of the Forschungszentrum Jülich, an event where scientists and representatives from industry and politics meet to discuss the progress, potential and challenges of the field. This year’s event was also attended by Prof. Sabine Döring, State Secretary at the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).

Prof. Sabine Döring, State Secretary at the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) (Copyright: Forschungszentrum Jülich / Kurt Steinhausen)

“We want to drive structural change in the Rhenish mining area through research and innovation. In this way, we are also helping to maintain and create added value and jobs in the regions concerned. The NEUROTEC project shows how this can be achieved: By establishing a strong network between science and industry, the microelectronics of the future are promoted and the transfer to industry is accelerated. Through NEUROTEC and the NeuroSys cluster, the greater Aachen area will become one of the leading locations for European AI hardware. Neuromorphic chips, as developed in NEUROTEC and NeuroSys, can significantly reduce the resources required for AI in the future. However, a successful structural change can only be achieved if we also succeed in transferring scientific findings into practical applications. NEUROTEC and NeuroSys offer optimal conditions for this and thus for a new, innovative AI hub in the Rhenish mining region,” says Prof. Döring at the start of the event.

Prof. Astrid Lambrecht, Chairwoman of the Board of Directors of Forschungszentrum Jülich, Prof. Ulrich Rüdiger, Rector of RWTH Aachen University, and LMR Thorsten Menne from the Ministry of Culture and Science also attended the high-level event. But the event was also and above all an opportunity to discuss science and technology, with several interesting lectures, a lively poster session and an exhibition.

PhD students from the Chair of Electronic Devices (ELD) presenting their posters (Copyright: AMO GmbH)

PhD students from the Chair of Electronic Devices (ELD) presenting their posters (Copyright: AMO GmbH)

“Our research covers the entire value chain, including the societal and ethical issues that disruptive technologies always raise. This offers opportunities on many technological levels for regional companies and start-ups to accelerate structural change. We are already seeing the first effects on the labor market and corporate investment. In the long term, semiconductor production in the region would ideally complement the existing comprehensive and internationally renowned expertise and infrastructure, and would further increase the attractiveness of the region for the excellently educated people from Forschungszentrum Jülich and RWTH Aachen University,” says NeuroSys coordinator Prof. Max Lemme.