A Nanotechnology-Inspired Grand Challenge for Future Computing

Statements of Support from Non-Federal Organizations

Please email NNIChallenges@nnco.nano.gov if your organization is involved in activities that support this grand challenge.

Computing Community Consortium (CCC): The CCC catalyzes and enables the pursuit of innovative, high-impact computing research through activities that articulate and communicate compelling research visions.  The CCC task force on the Convergence of Data and Computing leads activities at the intersections of Big Data, High Performance Computing, and the future of HPC.  This task force has recently released a whitepaper, Opportunities and Challenges for Next Generation Computing, discussing some of the potential opportunities that would be enabled by radical increases in computing performance with decreased power, and suggesting some possible pathways to achieve these ends.  With increased performance and decreased power, computing could have major impacts on societal issues such as new search engines for science, better understanding of human-in-the-loop systems, monitoring and anticipating of extreme weather conditions, and understanding quantum effects in materials and chemistry.  Also relevant to this challenge, the CCC released a workshop report, A New Age of Computing and the Brain, that frames both the many challenges in understanding the structure and function of the brain, and how new algorithmic or system organization approaches may radically transform computing itself.  The CCC looks forward to continuing to promote these and other activities related to this challenge in the research community. For additional information, contact Ann Drobnis.

Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation: The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation Science Program supports fundamental—often discovery-driven—science, including two initiatives with potential relevance to this challenge.  The Emergent Phenomena in Quantum Systems Initiative (EPiQS) is primarily focused on stimulating breakthroughs in the understanding of complex materials whose properties are dictated by competing quantum mechanical effects; such materials could provide a basis for future computing devices.  The foundation’s Data-Driven Discovery Initiative (DDD) recognizes that many scientific fields are confronted with a deluge of data and new approaches are needed to extract the important scientific insights from this deluge.  Success in this nanotechnology-inspired grand challenge would advance the goals of this initiative.  Given these synergies, the foundation would consider contributing to the cost of workshops associated with this challenge. 

IBM Research: For seventy years, IBM Research has advanced the frontiers of science and technology by inventing many of the foundational technologies that built the modern information technology industry. Throughout our history we have maintained a deep commitment to basic science, and to this day continue to push the boundaries of physics and nanotechnology, including building the world’s first brain-inspired SyNAPSE processor. IBM commends this challenge, and is committed to helping the NNI realize this vision through continued investments in cognitive and neuromorphic computing and with a vibrant ecosystem comprising universities, government agencies, and industry.

Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE):  The IEEE, through its Rebooting Computing Initiative, includes a community of experts at all levels of the computing technology stack, from device physics up through computer architecture, software, and algorithms.  This initiative’s mission is to restart the historic exponential performance scaling of computing that ceased, effectively, in 2005 due to energy inefficiencies of CMOS-based classical computing.  IEEE is investigating fundamentally new computing technologies that have the potential for a new exponential growth era, as discussed in the Rebooting Computing Summits.  In strategic partnership with the International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors 2.0, IEEE has narrowed focus onto neuromorphic, stochastic, and approximate methods of computing that, taken together, hold great promise.  Such methods provide new computing capabilities at exceptional energy efficiency.  The mission and goals of this effort align directly with this nanotechnology-inspired grand challenge, as illustrated by IEEE’s updated and extended response to OSTP’s call for topics, Sensible Machines. For additional information, contact Tom Conte.

Kavli Foundation:   The Kavli Foundation has long supported the interactions between nanoscience, neuroscience, and computation through the Kavli Futures Symposiums and as an aspect of the BRAIN Initiative.  The foundation views this challenge as an essential future direction of convergence between neuroscience and nanoscience, and commits to supporting the challenge through workshops and seed funding for scientists.  Planning has begun for a series of workshops over the next year that will bring together leading scientists from multiple disciplines to explore and expand upon the challenge in order to strengthen and enhance its impact.

Semiconductor Research Corporation (SRC):  SRC funds a broad portfolio of research aimed at advancing “semiconductor” technology, from materials and manufacturing to circuit and system design.  The SRC Nanoelectronics Research Initiative (NRI) is exploring device technologies that can sustain performance trends—beyond Moore’s Law—into the future.  In addition, SRC member companies recently established a research thrust aimed at new computing technologies more broadly for increased performance, while using less energy.  The program, called Energy and Performance in Connectivity Constrained Computing (EP3C), encompasses research from novel materials to entirely new architectures, beyond the traditional von Neumann approach.  

An overarching goal of these SRC programs is to establish a new computing paradigm—for applications from mobile devices to the cloud—with orders of magnitude improvement in computational energy efficiency.  It is also a goal to develop computing systems with capabilities for predictive learning and that provide insight based on various inputs and analyses, integrated on the same platform.  This nanotechnology-inspired grand challenge, with its focus on novel approaches to computing and energy efficiency, aligns squarely with the goals of NRI and EP3C.  A recently published report from a workshop on energy efficient computing outlines some of the research opportunities in this area, focusing at the device and architecture levels.

In another related area, with support of the NIST Advanced Manufacturing Technology Consortia, the SRC is establishing a Semiconductor Synthetic Biology consortium (SemiSynBio) to develop a roadmap and stimulate non-traditional thinking about the issues facing the semiconductor industry, concentrating on synergies between synthetic biology and semiconductor technology that could lead to novel, breakthrough solutions for a wide range of industries.  The SemiSynBio roadmap will identify target technologies and research needs in areas closely aligned with technologies expected to be fundamental to achieving this challenge. For additional information, contact Celia Merzbacher.


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