ST Microelectronics

Who -

STM is the main Italian-French electronic circuit foundry and the second in Europe (da verificare). STM mainly deals with RAM memories and microelectromechanical systems.

 What -

Accelerometers and gyroscopes are devices based on classical mechanics and aimed at measuring in real time the linear and angular velocity variations of a system. Their miniaturization was driven by the development of impact protection systems (airbags), where, however, the need for reliability close to 100% has often raised production costs in an unsustainable way, putting many production realities out of the market.

How -

MEMS accelerometers consist of two silicon elements, one suspended and one fixed, placed at micrometric distance from each other, which, subjected to an acceleration, modify their relative position and generate an electrical signal. Manufacturing techniques for their production are similar to those used for integrated circuits.

Where -

Although the dimensions of the active parts of these systems are rarely below the micron, the approach followed in their design and construction has much in common with nanotechnology. At the basis of a MEMS there is in fact the combination of different functions in a single device made possible by the reduction in size.

Success -

STM accelerometers had failed to penetrate the automotive market. There was a product, a large production reality, but the only existing market was not accessible. STM's MEMS division was close to being phased out.

Then Benedetto Vigna, leader of the MEMS group, had the idea of inventing a new market for an old technology: the market for videogames first and for smartphones later. Today, each of us has a MEMS sensor in his pocket, and he could no longer do without something that 10 years ago he did not even imagine could exist .

And from the risk of closure, STM's MEMS division became the world's leading MEMS sensor manufacturer with 600 million revenues in 2014.

An illuminating example of technology push against market pull.