Rousset fab’s future hangs in the balance
The proposal from neural networking chip company General Vision (see Plan to reopen Rousset fab requires investors) is the only one that offers a manufacturing future for the site, near Aix-en-Provence, which employed 600 people at its closing and was put into liquidation on December 26, 2013.
However, representatives of former employees there have told the judge of the court that they support a tender that would dismantle the site and move the equipment to Brazil, according to reports. One argument given was that the General Vision plan was unlikely to succeed because it had not managed to secure significant state or third-party support.
General Vision (Petaluma, Calif.) is a U.S. company led by expatriate French expects in computer vision and neuromorphic computing and which includes Philippe Lambinet, formerly a corporate strategy officer at STMicroelectronics NV and general manager of ST’s digital sector.
General Vision is proposing to use the Rousset site to set down neuromorphic chips and image sensors on glass substrates in a joint technology development with Japanese company Asahi Glass, under a project call NeuroMem. Such assemblies could include a million neurons in a system that would function like the human visual system and recognize objects in visual inspection and robotic applications.
General Vision has presented its plan to former employees at Rousset and said that if the liquidator accepts its proposal that it would need 120 employees by the end of 2014. It would take 8,000 square foot of the site to begin work with some of the equipment. The plan is to retain a limited amount of foundry business for old customers of LFoundry. Over time General Vision would hope to expand manufacturing of its own neuromorphic products and return the site to the levels of employment when it was shuttered.
"Now, the decision is in the hands of the judge. It should happen at end of this week or early next week. On one side, there is our offer, which creates 120 jobs in the coming 6 months, avoids €24 million of depollution of the site, contributes to the local economy, saves more than €10 million in social costs and creates the very first neuromorphic solutions company in the world with a leading position in what IBM’s CEO calls the third wave of computing," Lambinet told eeNews Europe. "On the other side, a bunch of brokers who will take the equipment and run away. The site will forever be closed and we will do our project somewhere else in a different country."
Meanwhile a first hearing is expected on June 6 in a class action lawsuit filed in Federal Court in New York alleging that Atmel Corp. (San Jose, Calif.) conspired to sell the wafer fab in Rousset, France, fraudulently to LFoundry GmbH (Landshut, Germany) so that the plant could be closed and Atmel could avoid the cost of closing the fab, including making redundancy payments to workers.
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