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Forward-Looking Experimentation (FLEX)
The Microsystems Technology Office at DARPA seeks fundamental research proposals for disruptive ideas in information and communication technologies (ICT) addressing the grand challenges for a data-driven future. Proposed research should investigate innovative approaches that enable revolutionary advances in science, devices, or systems. Specifically excluded is research that primarily results in evolutionary improvements to the existing state of practice.
The International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors (ITRS), with its unwavering focus on scaling of semiconductor devices, provided a research framework produced by industry experts that served as valuable strategic guidance across the academic, government, and industry research communities for many decades until it was discontinued in 2016. DARPA-sponsored research in microelectronics took advantage of this framework for many decades, focusing primarily on semiconductor device scaling and integration. With Moore’s Law approaching its physics-based limits and Dennard scaling having leveled off, attention has turned from the goals of the ITRS to a focus on applications including information and communications technologies (ICT). There are now many roadmaps, which in aggregate lack the focus and specificity needed to motivate and coordinate research across the community.
The critical issues facing our data-driven future were clearly articulated in the 2021 Decadal Plan for Semiconductors (https://www.src.org/about/decadal-plan/), co-authored by the Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) and the Semiconductor Research Corporation (SRC). The report defines five seismic shifts in the industry that represent grand challenges to the continued exponential progress of the scientific and economic engine that is the semiconductor industry. Revolutionary ideas for long-range innovations in ICT are needed to address these challenges.
The goal of the Forward-Looking Experimentation (FLEX) program is to identify the direction and timing of key disruptive advances in ICT, accelerate technology exploration and generate intellectual property, develop next-generation researchers for the U.S. workforce, and build the foundation for future research programs.
Proposals may be submitted on a rolling basis until 1:00 PM Eastern on August 9, 2024.
Areas of Interest
The seven FLEX topic areas are:
2. Communications and Connectivity
3. Intelligent Sensing to Action
4. Systems and Architectures for Distributed Compute
5. Intelligent Memory and Storage
6. Advanced Monolithic and Heterogeneous Integration
7. High-performance Energy-Efficient Devices for Digital and Analog Applications
All responsible sources capable of satisfying the Government's needs may submit a proposal that shall be considered by DARPA. Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and Minority Institutions are encouraged to submit proposals and join others in submitting proposals; however, no portion of this announcement will be set aside for these organizations’ participation due to the impracticality of reserving discrete or severable areas of this research for exclusive competition among these entities.