EU and Belgium invest $1.6 billion in ‘brains-on-chips’ technology firm Imec

Imec, a Belgian chip technology firm that is creating human-specific living brain models, has received a fresh capital infusion from the European Union and Belgium’s regional Flemish government to support its research in nanoelectronics and nanotechnology.

The European Union and Belgium’s regional Flemish government will together invest a total of $1.6 billion (1.5 billion euros) inImec, the Flemish government said in an announcement on Friday.

Imec plans to use this funding to enhance its “clean room” test facility by acquiring state-of-the-art equipment and implementing advanced processes. In a statement, the company expressed its intention to expand the facility and ensure it remains at the forefront of technological advancements in the field, Reuters reported.

“We know we will get our money back, not only in euros but also in societal dividend,” Flemish minister-president Jan Jambon said at a joint press conference with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo.

During a visit to Imec, Von der Leyen, a prominent figure within the EU, emphasized the importance of mitigating risks in the chip supply chains. Although she didn’t specifically mention China’s forthcoming restrictions on the export of strategic metals used extensively in the semiconductor industry, she highlighted the need for the EU to diversify its sources and reduce reliance on a limited number of suppliers from East Asia. This approach aimed to safeguard the EU’s chip supply and minimize vulnerabilities in the face of potential disruptions.

Founded in 1982 by Roger Van Overstraeten, Imec is creating human-specific living brain models, often referred to as ‘brains-on-chips’. These models are designed to automate and miniaturize the manipulation of human stem cells.

Imec is also actively working on developing technology that enables the generation of programmable, instrumented 3D brain models with a high level of precision at the single-cell level. To support this innovative project, Imec received a Collaborative Science Award of one million dollars from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. This funding will greatly contribute to the advancement of their research and development efforts.

Back in 2018, Imec made an exciting announcement about a research collaboration called Mission Lucidity. This joint venture involved Imec, KU Leuven, UZ Leuven, and VIB, and its primary objective was to unravel the mysteries of dementia, aiming to find effective ways to decode and understand this complex condition.