A basis for the vision was the close collaboration between IM (Swedish Institute of Microelectronics) and KTH – the leading technical university in Sweden – with the goal to provide Swedish industry with state-of-the-art results from research and development, as well as highly educated personnel. In the beginning, the main industrial customers of IM were ABB, Ericsson and Swedish Telecom, but the institute also had significant governmental support through STU (Swedish National Board for Technical Development), later reorganized under the name of NUTEK (Swedish Agency for Innovation Systems) which is now VINNOVA (Swedish Agency for Innovation Systems).
The cleanroom laboratory was originally operated by IM to satisfy the industrial customers with novel device and processing technology, and with KTH using a separate part of the cleanroom for research and education. The first department from KTH to be established at Electrum in 1987 was Solid State Electronics.
Industrial Microelectronics Center
In 1993 IM was reconstructed and a new, smaller, and more industrially focused institute was formed under the name of IMC (Industrial Microelectronics Center), by merging parts of IM with the Linköping based IMM (Center for Industrial Microelectronics and Materials technology). The industrially relevant activities at IM were hosted by IMC, while the cleanroom facility was transferred to KTH under the name KTH Semiconductor Laboratory (HLB), together with some of the more research oriented IM projects. Other parts of IM were outsourced, e.g., the department dedicated to battery development and testing was transferred to Catella Generics.
Simultaneously, KTH made a major reorganization by merging several smaller departments within the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, which together with the groups from IM formed the new KTH Department of Electronics (ELE). The research fields covered electronics and photonics, and ranged from basic physics to electronic components and electronic systems design, addressing all aspects on the maturing information technology.
A next step in building a leading research institute for the broad fields of optics and microelectronics in Sweden was taken in 1999, when IMC together with the Institute for Optical Research (IOF) formed Acreo.
Silicon Carbide with ABB
A project for development of Silicon Carbide based electronics, run by ABB as a continuation of the Silicon power device projects, with IMC and KTH as partners, had major importance for the development of the process facilities. In 1997 a 300 m2 cleanroom area was completely rebuilt to match the needs for development and small scale production of SiC devices. ABB withdrew in 2001, and most of the investments were taken over by KTH and Acreo, which continued the development of the SiC technology. This effort resulted in two spin-off companies, Advanced Microwave Device Solutions AMDS (in 2001) and TranSiC (in 2005).
The research programs at IM/IMC/Acreo and KTH in optoelectronics for telecom applications gave fruit in the form of successful spin-offs in 1997, Altitun, and 1999, Optillion. In 2000 the development in microsystem technology resulted in the spin-off company Silex. These companies built up their products and production skills in the cleanroom environment, under continuous supervision from their host organizations and with support from the lab personnel. These three companies grew fast and they all built up their own cleanroom facilities. They successively decreased their usage of the Semiconductor Laboratory, and transferred their activities almost completely to their own facilities in 2002-2004.
In 1999 KTH and Stockholm University established the IT-University in Kista, with increased recourses for both education and research, related to information technology. In 2001 KTH strengthened the physics profile at the IT-University, by moving the groups of Material Physics, Condensed Matter Physics and Optics from Campus Valhallavägen to Kista, with their important experimental resources.
In 2000 the Semiconductor Laboratory found a new organization, motivated by the goal to find an efficient way to satisfy the different needs formulated by the user groups at Acreo and KTH. Hence the user groups took responsibility for the operation of laboratories and tools, together with the personnel needed for the tasks. The lab organization reduced its personnel and formed an efficient umbrella with the overall responsibility for the facility, infrastructure, and user coordination. In 2003 the name was changed to Electrum Laboratory.
KTH School of ICT
In the next reorganization of KTH, in 2005, all departments in Kista formed the School of ICT (Information and Communication Technology). This new school is now the host for Electrum Laboratory, organized as a Center.
A major renewal of the non-cleanroom laboratories at KTH were made in 2006-07, when all the laboratories were collected to the premises in close conjunction with the cleanroom. New laboratories for wet chemistry and nanocharacterization were also established for the group of Functional Nanomaterials, which moved from Campus Valhallavägen. Simultaneously, the umbrella of the Electrum Laboratory was widening to also organize the non-cleanroom laboratories.
The cleanroom facility has been continuously modernized during the years, by improving the infrastructure for media delivery, air fans, etc, but also with new tools, and new walls and flooring. The work with a quality system has resulted in stable ISO9001 certified production processes and reliable characterization. This focused undertaking has paved the road for next generation of spin-off companies renting lab space. Today we find Replisaurus Technologies, founded in 2002, Scint-X (2006) and IR-nova (2007) as customers with their own lab area in the cleanroom.