[Professor Suhwan Kim from the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering of SNU said, “Technical cooperation between companies and universities should be further encouraged. Rather than stopping at just providing technical support for development, they should progress it further to actual production.”]
“Technical cooperation between companies and universities should be encouraged more. Rather than stopping at just providing technical support for development, they should progress it further to actual production.”
It is what professor Suhwan Kim from the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering of SNU, also a technical advisor at ‘Crepas Technologies’, a semiconductor design and development company, said. He cofounded Crepas Technologies in 2014. Junghwan Lee, who was a semiconductor engineer at Samsung Electronics, is the CEO and professor Kim took the role of technical advisor.
Crepas Technologies recently succeeded in developing a proximity sensor semiconductor chip for smartphones and is waiting to supply them to major domestic companies. The major companies are currently reviewing whether they can mass-produce this chip. The proximity sensor chip for smartphones developed by professor Kim allows the display to automatically turn off when the smartphone goes into a pocket or gets closer to the face when answering a phone call. It can help reduce the power consumption of smartphones.
◇ Refused selling to China, testing for mass production with a domestic company
It also solved the problem of conventional proximity sensors that arose when the screens of smartphones changed to full display. Smartphone proximity sensors measure the distance by shooting light to an object and detecting the reflected light. However, since proximity sensors started to be implemented beneath the display, the reflected light weakened after going through the OLED and tempered glass not allowing the sensor to properly detect it. When the light is shot with higher intensity, it made the display flicker.
Professor Kim said, “We improved the light detecting performance by developing a new light sensor based on silicon and integrating it to system semiconductors.”
Then, China contacted with an offer concerning the sale of the proximity sensor technology. While the company was contemplating, they also received a call from a major domestic company asking for a product test. Crepas Technologies chose the domestic company and is currently under testing to check whether it is suitable for smartphones developed in their company and for mass production. Professor Kim said, “If we sold the technology to China, we may have earned a lot of money but it might pose a negative effect on our industry.”
Professor Kim has served as a technical advisor to many startups and small to medium-sized companies in system semiconductors. However, even with technical support, many companies could not go into actual production. He cofounded Crepas Technologies to make this happen. His belief that engineers should create something that can help human lives also worked as a motivation.
[Captured from Crepas Technologies website.]
In the early stages of Crepas Technologies, it was simply a service company for technology development. When professor Kim developed an accelerometer sensor in 2015, it only developed semiconductors that customers asked for. Further production was fully controlled by the customers on their own. Accelerometer sensors are used to detect the speed of vehicles. The customer failed to take this to the level of production.
Crepas Technologies earned money for development, but professor Kim thought that the growth of the company was limited. The dust sensor developed in 2016 went into mass production. The chip was supplied to an electronics company in China and is also under review to be used in major domestic electronics companies.
◇Major companies and startups, small to medium-sized companies should be connected into groups
Professor Kim welcomed but also showed worries on how the government decided to support domestic venture and small, medium-sized semiconductor companies. Ministry of SMEs and Startups said that they will connect small to medium-sized companies to major companies that will buy the products.
Professor Kim said, “Providing one-to-one connection of major companies and small to medium-sized companies will have no impact. It is important to form groups with major companies, ventures, and other companies to create a synergy effect.” He added, “In other parts of the world, when a small, medium-sized company proposes to develop and produce a technology, some major company takes action by forming a group with excellent startups and other small companies to start a development project. It should not be like a major company telling the small, medium company to make and deliver such a product for them to use.”
Translated by Kyungjin Lee, English Editor of Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, firstname.lastname@example.org