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What will boost silicon innovation?

Posted: 15 Dec 2015     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:semiconductor industry  design cycle  front-end design  ASIC 

The semiconductor industry today is experiencing slower silicon innovation despite the fact that there are many talented designers out there. In addition, the process for developing and executing new ideas has not only become time-consuming but more expensive as well.

Consequently, semiconductor industry growth has decelerated to half its long-term growth average. The industry is rapidly approaching the point where it is prohibitively expensive to try new things.

Addressing this problem will require a re-examination of current business models and the reasons behind sky-high design costs. We need to rethink the way we approach design so that designers can pursue the best design instead of settling for the safest. Companies like Open-Silicon have stepped up to the plate by modifying industry design flows and introducing new business models that reduce the risk involved in innovation.

Holistic design approach with experienced ASIC partners

Rethinking the design approach is the best strategy for lowering expenses without compromising product integrity. The problem with the traditional method, where the majority of front-end design happens in-house and outside vendors handle the physical design and manufacturing, is that the overall success of the chip's design is dependent on the front-end design process. With a more holistic approach, companies can anticipate physical design and manufacturing challenges from the beginning. This approach gives careful consideration to each design phase and reduces costs by addressing problems early in the design cycle.

Understanding chip design phases is as important as strategically selecting design partners with the appropriate expertise. A partner with the right experience could reduce the cost of the design by as much as 30 to 40 per cent by reducing the number of re-spins. It is crucial to utilise on the efficiencies companies have developed over many years completing various designs for different applications. Experienced designers provide valuable guidance regarding which IP or protocol will work best and where to take risks.

In addition to conventional partnerships, the advent of semiconductor start-up incubators like Silicon Catalyst is a huge step towards capitalising industry expertise. Semiconductor start-ups face challenges including fierce competition for funding and complex processes for bringing new designs to market. Incubators can reduce these challenges by building an ecosystem of companies that provide start-ups with the funding, resources and support they need to navigate the industry, build their business and deliver innovative ideas to market.

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