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Democratising access to silicon technology


Advantest Corporation, together with other members of the Research Association for Advanced Systems (RaaS), including the Graduate School of Engineering at the University of Tokyo, Toppan Inc., Hitachi Ltd., Mirise Technologies Corporation, and Japan’s RIKEN scientific research institute, has begun research and development on new, advanced system technology that aims to democratize of access to silicon technology by enabling anyone to quickly design a dedicated chip and manufacture it with leading-edge semiconductor technology.

The key to the digital transformation, which promises to revolutionize every aspect of our lives through information processing technology, is the utilization of data that seamlessly connects physical and virtual spaces. Data-driven societies require support systems that collect data sensed by IoT devices via 5G communications, apply advanced analysis using AI, and provide the results to users in the form of a service.

Since digital technology and the products and services that utilize them develops and spreads through platforms--business models that gain market advantages by gathering users into a single place, and share technology across multiple products or product groups—not only cost performance but time performance is an important feature. Platform-based products and services need to provide high performance at low cost, and they need to provide it quickly. High performance can be obtained by manufacturing dedicated chips using advanced processes, but developing these types of devices takes a great deal of money and time.

RaaS, led by Professor Tadahiro Kuroda, director of the Systems Design Lab at the Graduate School of Engineering of the University of Tokyo, was founded to democratize access to silicon technology by accelerating the efficiency of this design process. The association, whose acronym can also be read as “Research as a Service,” advocates providing semiconductors not as parts (products) but as units of knowledge (a service). The association aims to develop an agile design platform and deploy open architecture that can increase the development efficiency of dedicated chips by 10x. At the same time, it will improve energy efficiency by 10x by using advanced (7nm or smaller) CMOS processes developed by the world’s great foundries to fabricate chips.

Development cost is a critical issue in designing and manufacturing dedicated chips. RaaS's new initiative, led by the six maembers of the association’s systems research division--Advantest, the University of Tokyo, Toppan, Hitachi, Mirise Technologies, and RIKEN--will democratize chip design and manufacturing by developing a next-generation advanced semiconductor design and development platform that can be shared among the association’s members. Other participants in the semiconductor industry, such as EDA vendors and foundries, will also support this project.

Advantest and the other members of the association will utilize the energy-efficient semiconductor chips developed in this way to develop and commercialize their own products and solutions. Ultimately, the project will democratize access to silicon technology by enabling anyone to quickly design a dedicated chip and manufacture it with leading-edge semiconductor technology.

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