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Magazine Feature
This article was originally featured in the edition:
Volume 30 Issue 4

A wise investment in the GaN IC


French start-up Wise-Integration has raised an additional €15 million to expand its commercialisation of the GaN IC .


Over the last few years, GaN has become more familiar with the general public than ever, thanks to its success in fast chargers for mobile devices. Products on sale trumpeting the use of this wide bandgap material are widely promoted, such as the Anker 120 W GaN Charger and the Wavlink 100 W GaN Charger. However, while there is no doubt that the fast-charging market has been great for growing sales of GaN devices, commoditisation has now kicked in, creating a need for diversification.

To open up new opportunities for the GaN transistor, its producers need to increase its power-handling capability, a move that would enable the introduction of this material in power supplies in telecom, industrial and electric vehicle markets. Another strategy is to enhance the functionality of GaN – gains on this front will also drive its deployment, and help it displace the incumbent, silicon.

One company that’s simultaneously pursuing both these opportunities – higher powers and greater functionality – is Wise-Integration, the fabless spin-off of CEA-Leti. An initial funding round of €2.5 million led to the development and commercialisation of two product families: a GaN IC; and a silicon-based control chip, which can drive GaN with digital signals. And this February Wise-Integration has raised an additional €15 million to expand its commercial activities.

“We are now moving to market, and we need to push the technology to customers,” claims company CEO Thierry Bouchet, who says that while the level of recent investment may not be that high by US standards, it is significant, and will fund Wise-Integration until the middle of 2026.

One of the company’s primary objectives is to win sales for its digital control technology, a goal that will be targeted by supporting customers with application engineers. The French start-up has developed embedded software that’s implemented on standard microcontrollers, and it aims to use this to promote digital control of GaN devices in the power supply market.

“It's a differentiation versus the competition,” argues Bouchet. “We are not only providing GaN – we also leverage all the GaN performance with digital control.”

The company’s other big plan is to drive its technology into higher-power applications.

“Today we target consumer, low-power applications” says Bouchet. “We need to move now to industrial, server, telecom and also automotive products.”

While GaN ICs are not as mature as their discrete cousins, they are on the market, with suppliers limited to not just Wise-Integration. There is also Navitas, the first company to introduce the GaN IC, in the form of a charger for the smartphone. For all, the challenge is to now produce successful products providing far higher powers.

What distinguishes Wise-Integration from its competitors is its approach to integration. “We focus on the digitalization,” remarks Bouchet, pointing out that rivals drive GaN with analogue signals.

Benefits of a digital drive include the opportunity to turn to very high frequencies, and to produce incredibly thin power supplies with a low bill of materials.

“A key targeted market for us is the power supply for monitors and TVs,” says Bouchet. “You have a very small, very thin display, and all the OEMs are looking to introduce power supplies inside the panel, so they need to have a very thin power supply. Our technology allows this requirement, thanks to digital.”

Wise-Integration has produced a demonstration board for a 300 watt TV power supply that involves switching GaN at 1 MHz. Such high frequencies threaten to produce electromagnetic interference and noise, potential problems that have already been addressed.

Supply chains
To produce its products, Wise-Integration partners with TSMC, one of the first open foundries for GaN technology. TSMC’s expertise includes the epitaxial process, allowing fabless firms to use a relatively short supply chain. For Wise-Integration, alongside TSMC it uses AEC for packing and testing and Alter, a French firm, for device qualification.

Bouchet and colleagues are now trying to secure a second source for chip production, to increase the robustness of their supply chain. This would allow Wise-Integration to cater for all eventualities, including unforeseen production problems at TSMC, or a decision by this giant to devote its capacity to other companies.

“The second source could be far closer to home, with options including a European GaN foundry” say Bouchet.

While working on that, Wise-Integration plans to ship a million GaN devices this year, and then a million digital controls. These products will be offered as bundles, which will accelerate sales, by enabling the company’s digital controller to be sold alongside up to four of its GaN ICs.

The company clearly has many exciting plans for the next year or so that could open the door to a new era for GaN power devices.

Thierry Bouchet, CEO and co-founder of Wise-Integration, previously led Adis Innovation, a manufacturer of high-performance discrete and integrated power devices.

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