IBM said Wednesday that it will invest $3 billion to develop new semiconductors that will be 7 nanometers and smaller to enable new forms of computing.
The investment by Big Blue is the latest in a key area as it tries to retool into higher growth areas. The company has invested heavily in analytics, its Watson unit and businesses such as mobility and commerce.
IBM's bet is that the next decade will feature systems---cognitive, synaptic and quantum computing to name a few---that will need more than traditional silicon chips. The investment also serves as a reminder that IBM is committed to hardware even though it is unloading its low-end server business to Lenovo.
According to IBM, the first phase of the research program will revolve around developing silicon technology that can squeeze down to 7 nanometers. The second phase will look at semiconductors that move beyond silicon.
Squeezing semiconductors down from 22 nanometers to 14nm then 10nm will occur over the next decade, but getting to 7nm will require new manufacturing tools and techniques.
Here's a look at the moving parts:
- IBM researchers and engineers in Albany and Yorktown, New York, Almaden, California, and Zurich, Switzerland will collaborate on the project
- The company will be hiring "significantly" for research in carbon nanoelectronics, photonics, new memory technologies and quantum and cognitive computing architectures
- IBM is hoping to combine its intellectual property in areas such as quantum computing, graphene, silicon photonics and low-power transistors to move the project along.