CEO interview: Semeria ushers in change at Leti

July 04, 2016 // By Peter Clarke
Marie Semeria
Marie-Noëlle Semeria is planning new directions and focus for the state-owned Laboratoire d'électronique des technologies de l'information (Leti). Semeria was appointed to lead Leti as CEO in October 2014 and EE Times Europe caught up with her at a Leti-organized conference on IoT reliability and security, held in Lyon, France, in June and conducted this interview.

Leti, based in Grenoble, will be 50 years old in 2017. Over its history it has been substantially funded by the French government and has built up a reputation for excellence in fundamental electronics and semiconductor research as well as generating numerous spin-off startups. But with Semeria taking the CEO position there has also been a re-evaluation of the best way to achieve its purpose. The conclusion is that Leti is still about R&D to achieve miniaturization and energy efficiency but with a recognition that the industry is global and has moved to the system-on-chip and Internet era and that applications are changing rapidly.

Semeria is an experienced administrator but at heart an engineer. In her early career she worked on magnetic memory with Sagem and then moved to become chief architect with PixTech Inc., a now-closed 1992 Leti spin-off that developed flat panel displays based on arrays of micro-tip electron emitters.

Semeria then spent from 1996 to 2012 within Leti, rising to the position of deputy director before spending three years as chief scientist at Leti's parent organization CEA Tech. The French government owned and controlled CEA is the Commissariat à l'énergie atomique et aux énergies alternatives.

"We need to take a global view and not just about the device. The technology-push approach is not enough," Semeria told EE Times Europe.

The Leti campus in Grenoble.

The near 50-year history of Leti can be characterized in two phases, Semeria said. The first was one of scientific and engineering study to develop electronic technologies of strategic interest to France and to underpin the French communications and computer industry sectors. The second phase added to that the responsibility to help move such technology out into society partly through the creation of startup companies.

"Now there is a third-phase; of customer pull. We need to understand the applications and use cases, build the specification and then supply the technical building blocks to meet system-level requirements," Semeria said.