Outstanding Arm-ECS graduate claims Young Engineer of the Year accolade

Former University of Southampton postgraduate research student Ben Fletcher has been named as a winner of the Royal Academy of Engineering (RAEng) Engineers Trust Young Engineer of the Year competition.

The electronic engineer is recognised for outstanding success in his early career, having advanced novel approaches for cost-effective three-dimensional integrated circuit (3D-IC) design at part of Southampton’s Arm-ECS Research Centre.

Today, Ben is a Physical Design Engineer at Graphcore Ltd, where he is responsible for the physical design of key components on a flagship series of processors to deal with accelerating AI workloads. He is part of the team that developed the largest ever single-die silicon chip earlier this year, the 7nm CMOS Colossus MK2 IPU.

Ben completed a BEng Electronic Engineering degree at Southampton between 2013 and 2016, before starting his award-winning PhD research at the university-industry centre.

He has been selected as one of five winners of the prestigious Young Engineer of the Year competition, awarded by the RAEng with support from the Worshipful Company of Engineers.

“I’m delighted to have received this award,” Ben says. “I know the selection process is very competitive and includes young engineers from a wide range of engineering disciplines, so it’s fantastic to be chosen as a winner. Being recognised as a young engineer of the year is a great boost to my career and an affirmation that the work I’m doing is important and innovative.

“I’d like to pay a special thanks to Professor Geoff Merrett, Co-Director of the Arm-ECS Research Centre, for nominating me for the award and his support and mentoring over the past few years.”

Ben was presented his award and a £3,000 prize during a specially arranged visit to the Thames Tideway Project in London on Tuesday 6th July, attended by HRH The Princess Royal (Royal Fellow of the Academy).

Ben’s research has been published extensively, including several leading international journals and conference publications which have been downloaded over 4,000 times. He received numerous prizes during his time at the University of Southampton, including the STEM for Britain/IEEE Communications Society Prize, an IET Postgraduate Prize, and the University’s Doctoral College Research Award.

The postgraduate research explored a way of building application-specific silicon chips using 3D stacking, where each layer in the chip performs a different function and may be fabricated using a different technology. To keep things low cost, the study investigated using micron-scale wireless links within the chip, to transmit data and power between layers.

“I was really fortunate to undertake my PhD as part of the Arm-ECS Research Centre because it offers the best-of-both-worlds in terms of academic mentoring and industry insight,? Ben says. “I was able to spend half of my PhD at the university and the other half at the Arm offices in Cambridge, helping me to centre my research around the needs of industry.”

The research resulted in the filing of two patents and fabrication of the first ever 3D stacked Arm processor with wireless inter-layer data and power links.