The purpose of our proposal is to improve the quality and relevance, efficiency and equity in science and technology teaching and learning opportunities in African universities. We propose new institutes, Microelectronics Training and Research Institute (MTRI), and Microelectronics labs, at selected African universities towards realizing these objectives and meeting the skills requirements in Africa’s evolving and dynamic information and communication technology (ICT) sector.
These institutes will educate and train students (and other citizens) in the exciting field of microelectronics, and its applications to agriculture, biology, manufacturing, telecommunications, information systems and foster opportunities not only for the acquisition of new knowledge, but also the production and application of new knowledge. A new sub-program on microelectronics would be established within the schools’ masters and doctorate programs in engineering while strengthening the undergraduate engineering programs.
Also, certificate and diploma programs on microelectronics will be offered to the public. Enormous efforts would be made to attract small and medium enterprise to send their employees to attend the programs. Our program will provide broad-based innovative trainings, which would enhance the quality of their business processes and systems. All the schools must be required to have Business Incubation & Technology Transfer Unit (BITTU) with vibrant academic-industry relationships. We believe in models that move ideas from labs to markets. AFRIT has the capacity to help develop and structure a modern BITTU through our networks.
What is microelectronics? The term microelectronics describes a group of technologies that integrate multiple devices into a small physical area. Often these devices are made from semiconductors with a process called photolithography. Several components are available in microelectronic scale such as transistors, capacitors, inductors, resistors, diodes, insulators and conductors. The microelectronics can be divided to its subfields which in turn are connected to other micro related fields. These subfields are micro electromechanical systems (MEMS), nanoelectronics, optoelectronics and single electron devices (SED). Integrated circuits and microchips are typical microelectronic devices, which can be found in computers and mobile phones. Microelectronics can be also found for example in medical devices, toys and automobiles. Its industry, the semiconductor industry, is considered one of the most pervasive in modern history and continues to shape global commerce and industry.
These MTRI programs will provide educational opportunities for students and public interested in the emerging and interdisciplinary areas of neuromorphics, MEMS, telecommunication circuits and systems, information systems, controls, etc. There would be cross-disciplinary efforts and partnerships between African universities and international academic partners. African experts in Diasporas will be called upon to assist the local schools to help develop their programs to educate the students at international standards. AFRIT has networks of African experts across the globe which can help African institutions get started.
MTRI program is consistent with NEPAD vision of helping African nations to develop capacity in science and technology. In the next decade, courtesy of many National visioning projects from Africa to Kenya along with the explosive growth of our telecommunications sector, Africa will have enormous needs for microelectronics engineers to move up the ladder in the technology pyramid by leading the design and development of some of the electronics systems and tools that are used in Africa. AFRIT is of the opinion that now is the time to start training the students towards building a sustainable, organically grown microelectronics industry which will help improve our KEI.
The proposed program will help many African schools that already have the missions of providing technical education and training in technical and scientific areas which are critical to their respective economies. It is consistent with their research and teaching visions. Our proposed program has great potential to become a continental model not just for microelectronics programs but in other scientific fields because it brings together a cutting edge combination of local schools and foreign academic partners. They share and network on courses, laboratories, pioneer research programs and involve a global network of their respective school alumni who are in top global institutions. This program will promote the acquisition of new knowledge and the production and application of new knowledge in classrooms and laboratories, and produce highly trained and skilled graduates well qualified to move into academic, industrial or federal research positions.
Many engineering programs in African schools will surely have a high priority on establishing the proposed institute or labs considering the level of interests they have shown on this area. This is demonstrated by the extent to which education in microelectronics related fields is already taking place in the classrooms across campus. Despite lack of facilities for practical education, the theoretical aspect is well taught across many African universities.
This proposal mirrors similar initiatives which have been used by MOSIS (USA), CMC Microsystems (Canada), Europractice (Europe) – all programs supported by their respective governments or agencies towards practical oriented training and learning on microelectronics, especially at the students’ level. Through MOSIS, many US students have experienced the complete life-cycle of microelectronics design and development. Over the years, these initiatives have enabled the different nations to train and develop more relevant practically oriented students for the industries. Central to our proposal is the development of a world class training and research environment (a Center of Excellence) across Africa in partnerships with leading top international universities.