Arm has announced that through a new program, Flexible Access for Startups, the company is opening its IP portfolio at no cost to qualifying silicon startups. Startups must fill out an application for consideration in the program.
The program includes access to Arm’s SoC design portfolio, production of prototypes, and tools, training, and support.
Arm claims that developing with their IP can cut development costs by 52% and shave six months off the development process. Image used courtesy of Arm
Arm assures that with more than 160 billion Arm-based chips shipped by more than 500 licensees, “a whole ecosystem has evolved to support every step of the journey from concept through to foundry.”
A Look at Arm’s Flexible Access Program
In July of 2019, Arm launched a Flexible Access Program for a range of companies of all sizes and commercial aims, allowing them to experiment and design with their IP. Arm’s Phil Burr (director of business transformation, automotive and IoT) explains that the program allowed users to design, debug, test, and produce prototypes without paying license fees until they reached production.
Back in 2019, a company would have to pay an annual fee of $75,000 for basic access to this program. Fast forward to April 2020. Arm is now allowing qualifying startups to use their Flexible Access Program at no cost. Selected startups will be able to access the entire mainstream product packages, including CPUs, GPUs, Corstone foundation IP, and technical support from Arm engineers.
How Will Hardware Designers Benefit from Arm’s IP Portfolio?
For one, the IP portfolio extends access to several electronic design automation (EDA) tools. Arm says these tools will help chip designers to better develop and analyze the semiconductor product at hand.
Aside from design tools, a key feature of this portfolio is Arm’s fixed virtual platforms. These platforms allow designers to simulate various systems with configurable processors, memory, and peripherals. Platforms such as these give designers a programmer’s view of their constructed hardware that is ready for testing.
Engineers will have access to EDA tools and virtual platforms. Image used courtesy of Arm
Arm’s virtual platform allows the engineer to start bare metal coding using a Linux application without having a physical target. The designer can experiment, design, and prototype with various Arm solutions throughout the product development cycle.
Accounting for engineers who have never used Arm products before, the Flexible Access Program provides on-demand training (PDF): an introduction to mainstream IP products, Arm CPU architectures, AMBA bus protocols, Arm tools, and design models. The program also presents designers with various training modules that will help them throughout the development cycle.
Arm’s Partnership with Silicon Catalyst, an “Incubator” Company
As part of this package for startups, selected companies will also have access to Silicon Catalyst’s resources. Arm and Silicon Catalyst, an incubator company, announced their partnership prior to the access program going live. This partnership is set to provide incubating services to qualifying silicon startups. Their leading goal is to help new semiconductor companies address the challenges in moving from ideation to realization.
Silicon Catalyst’s “In-Kind” ecosystem partners. Screenshot used courtesy of Silicon Catalyst
They do this by providing design tools and services, simulation software, foundry PDK access, MPW runs, test program development, and tester access. Accepted companies will have access (or discounted access) to these tools for two years at no cost, along with access to a network of advisors and investors associated with Silicon Catalyst.
Two Startups Report Success
SiMaai and Hailo are two examples of silicon startups that have tapped into this opportunity. While SiMaai is still in the process of developing a new silicon device, the company’s CEO and founder, Krishna Rangasaayee has expressed a strong appreciation for Arm’s ongoing technical support.
“As a startup, we are deriving the benefit of the same level of commitment and support to our near and long term success as a large public company.”
As for Hailo, the up-and-coming deep learning developer has begun working with Arm’s Flexible Startup program for a new Arm Cortex-based processor. They used Arm’s ecosystem to create a processor capable of both traditional and neural network processing at the edge for embedded devices.
Performance testing of Hailo’s new processor utilizing the Arm Cortex-M3. Image used courtesy of Hailo (PDF)
The co-founder of Hailo, Orr Danon, expressed how crucial it was to have a robust software ecosystem with excellent testing measures.
“Arm’s extensive software ecosystem, combined with a variety of support and resources that exist, made it the obvious choice to ensure successful adoption in the market.”
According to a case study report (PDF), Hailo’s access to Arm IP allowed them to design and demonstrate a comprehensive prototype for potential investors and gather more than $16 million in funding.
Do You Have Experience at a Startup?
If you’ve worked as a designer at a startup, what are some of the challenges you experienced? How did you overcome those challenges? Share your experiences in the comments below.