Semiconductor manufacturing is not for the faint of heart. Making silicon chips requires one of the most complex manufacturing processes humans have ever devised. For decades, Intel’s engineers and scientists have continually faced – then overcome – challenges posed by the daunting physics of squeezing billions of microscopic transistors onto ever-smaller computer chips. There is arguably no industry on Earth that is so reliant on continuing to push the boundaries of innovation.
Intel has a long history of innovation, and we’re continuing to lead the charge. But we recognize that great ideas can come from any number of places, and innovation thrives in open and collaborative environments. Our CEO Pat Gelsinger declared Intel’s dedication to an open ecosystem last October, and we’re committed to integrating that vision throughout all facets of our business – including Intel Foundry Services (IFS).
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Our vision for IFS is bold: to become one of the world’s leading foundries. In the year since the formation of IFS, we have built a world-class team backed by Intel’s industry-leading technologies, but we know we can’t achieve this vision on our own.
A semiconductor foundry is not simply a contract manufacturer. We are an extension of our customers’ innovation pipeline – a deeply integrated partner that shares the entire journey from concept to final product. It takes a veritable army of software, design services, intellectual properties (IP), electronic design automation (EDA) tools and flows, and other technologies to implement a complex chip design in silicon. This process would not be possible without support from a broad and diverse community of industry partners that make up the foundry ecosystem.
Innovation Fund Supports Disruptive Technologies
In that spirit, I am thrilled to unveil our newest programs to empower our ecosystem partners and foundry customers to push chip innovation further and faster. Through a collaboration between Intel Capital and Intel Foundry Services, we’re creating a $1 billion fund to support early-stage startups and established companies building disruptive technologies for the foundry ecosystem. The fund will focus on two key strategic industry inflections: enabling modular products with an open chiplet platform, and supporting design approaches that leverage multiple instruction set architectures (ISAs), spanning x86, Arm and RISC-V.
These strategic inflections – among other key trends – perfectly exemplify the industry’s growing embrace of open platforms and solutions. For example, open ISAs are a relatively new addition to the semiconductor landscape, but they are quickly gaining traction. This approach allows users to customize and adapt processor cores to their own specific applications. As the leading open-source ISA, RISC-V is a great fit for our open ecosystem vision, which is why we are making investments and building partnerships that will empower the ecosystem and help drive further adoption of RISC-V.
Likewise, the industry’s increasing adoption of modular design based on “chiplet” building blocks gives architects incredible flexibility to mix and match the best IP and process technologies for the product application. Because the approach brings together design IP and process technologies from multiple vendors, truly tapping the power of modular architectures requires an open ecosystem. That’s why Intel is partnering with other industry leaders to develop an open standard for a die-to-die interconnect that allows chiplets to communicate with each other at high speed, enabling interoperable chiplets from different foundries and process nodes to be packaged using a wide variety of technologies.
Design Ecosystem Alliance Accelerates Innovation into Silicon
At the same time, we’re doubling down on our customer-first mindset with industry partners to streamline foundry customers’ design journeys.
Foundry customers need access to design services, IP, and tools and flows to enable their next-generation products in different stages. With the goal of accelerating customer innovation, the IFS Accelerator ecosystem alliance program brings together the brightest minds and the broadest capabilities to deliver a seamless interface with Intel’s process and packaging technologies.
From initial concept to implementation, the capabilities offered by IFS Accelerator provide the foundation upon which customers interact with their foundry manufacturing partner. Leveraging the power of the ecosystem unlocked by the IFS Accelerator program is essential to support the rapidly growing demand for semiconductors across a range of market segments and applications. IFS is making its technology platforms available to these partners to ensure that the pace of innovation moves forward at a torrid pace.
We are still in the early stages of our journey to become one of the world’s leading foundries. But we are laying the foundation today through partnerships with – and investments in – the companies that will power the foundry ecosystem for decades to come.
Randhir Thakur is the president of Intel Foundry Services.