Bio-inspired Adaptive Architectures and Systems

Lead Research Organisation: University of York
Department Name: Electronics


The ever-increasing complexity of highly integrated computing systems requires more and more complex levels of monitoring and control over the potentially large number of interacting resources available in order to manage and exploit them effectively. Technology innovations are driving device and systems design to consider, for example, a move from multi-core (2-10 cores) to many-core (hundreds-thousands of cores) and to design hybrid technology platforms. However, it is still neither obvious how these systems will be constructed architecturally nor how they will be controlled and programmed. Major issues related to these systems include reliability and on-line optimisation, as well as the efficient utilisation of these complex systems. The need for reliability in such systems is obvious, considering their size and the huge design and test efforts required to manage the increasing sensitivity to faults of next-generation technologies.

Here we propose research into hardware and software systems whose designs are motivated by biological principles. The main activities will be in the design, evaluation and exploitation of such systems. This will concern the advancement of bio-inspired techniques to construct microelectronic systems of the future. This will cover the topology of such systems that will both be massively parallel and will be required to cope with unreliable components, such as the variability of devices resulting from the continuing reduction in feature size. The need for new manufacturing methods such as 3D fabrication and new materials such as molecular devices will be critical for the future of microelectronic system design and will form a significant part of this research.

Planned Impact

As a university research group our role is to design and develop radically novel, innovative architectures and systems on silicon, as well as future nano-substrates. Aggressive industrial roadmaps (such as the ITRS) require significant innovation in order to meet challenges and goals set and hence the step changes created as a result of this research programme will be of considerable value to our industrial partners and collaborative researchers.

Bio-inspired mechanisms give the potential to make step changes in the design and implementation of these and future technologies. Industry drives for smaller, faster and more complex components and systems, as current techniques for design and manufacture are being pushed to their limits, bio-inspired mechanisms are starting to be considered as a real addition (alternative) to help solving these problems. This platform grant will ensure that the research in this area continues to develop, aligned to industry needs and ensure that maximum value is gained from the research.

Industrially, the UK is home to some world-leading electronic companies including microelectronic companies such as ARM, Cambridge Silicon Radio, Wolfson and Imagination Technologies. In addition, companies such as Xilinx, IBM, Roke Research and Broadcom have a significant presence in the UK. Links are already being strengthened with these companies (and other international companies) through ngenics Global Ltd, a recent spin out from the Intelligent Systems group. A close relationship will remain between ngenics and the Intelligent Systems group, ensuring that the group is driven by industrially relevant challenges and an easy exploitation route exists for new innovations.

In past projects a number of these companies have actively participated in research projects, steering the direction in the form of industrial steering committee. A similar committee will be created for this platform grant (e.g. ARM, NMI and Roke Research, Xillinx) to advise and ensure maximum impact. Furthermore, the reinforcement of these industrial relationships will allow us to identify joint research topics, leading to an even closer partnership.

Longer-term objectives that will be enabled by the Platform Grant will be the acceptance and integration of bio-inspired mechanisms and techniques in the core processes involved with microelectronics design and manufacture and the creation of novel microsystems consisting of mixed technologies, electronic and molecular, that are designed using bio-inspired methods and that show significant ability to adapt autonomously.

The most obvious beneficiaries of the work planned in the programme will be the microelectronics industries and fabless designers. Fundamental issue such as control and communications within many-core systems, coping with unreliable devices, increased complexity of designs and hybrid technologies are all significant areas of interest within the industries and research community.

At the systems level, industries working on critical systems, e.g. automotive and aerospace industries, who are constantly pushed towards achieving high levels of reliability at the leading edge where technology is likely to become less reliable, and associated research communities for whom opportunities for novel research directions may arise will be potential beneficiaries of this programme.

In addition, technology producers and medical researchers who are working on using computational properties of DNA for "smart" drug synthesis will benefit from the outcomes of the programme.


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Description We have developed new methods and techniques in the design and optimisation of many-core architectures. We have developed new bio-inspired implementations of epigenetic computational models. We have performed experiments using analogue and digital arrays to investigate issues related to semiconductor device variability.
Exploitation Route Results related to many-core and variability assessment could be used within the processor and semiconductor industries. Work on the interface between DNA and electronics could have application in medicine and novel computation.
Sectors Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education,Electronics,Healthcare

Description Discussion have taken place with a number of potential industrial partners, but nothing firm has resulted at this stage.
First Year Of Impact 2018
Sector Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Electronics,Healthcare
Impact Types Societal