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Intel announced a $1 billion fund to support the development of a foundry innovation ecosystem

4 mins read
Intel announced a $1 billion fund to support the development of a foundry innovation ecosystem
Credit: Intel Corporation

Intel launched a new $1 billion fund today to help early-stage entrepreneurs and established firms develop revolutionary technologies for the foundry ecosystem.

The fund, which is a cooperation between Intel Capital and Intel Foundry Services (IFS), will prioritize investments in intellectual property (IP), software tools, new chip architectures, and enhanced packaging technologies that will help foundry customers get to market faster.

Intel also announced partnerships with a number of companies that are aligned with this fund and are focused on key strategic industry inflections such as 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.

Intel announced a $1 billion fund to support the development of a foundry innovation ecosystem
Credit: Intel Corporation

Pat Gelsinger, Intel CEO says: “Foundry customers are rapidly embracing a modular design approach to differentiate their products and accelerate time to market. Intel Foundry Services is well-positioned to lead this major industry inflection. With our new investment fund and open chiplet platform, we can help drive the ecosystem to develop disruptive technologies across the full spectrum of chip architectures.”

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Intel recently launched IFS as part of its IDM 2.0 plan to help fulfil the growing global demand for advanced semiconductor manufacturing. IFS is positioned to offer the foundry industry’s broadest portfolio of distinctive IP, including all of the leading ISAs, in addition to delivering cutting-edge packaging and process technology and committed capacity in the United States and Europe.

A robust ecosystem is essential for foundry customers to use IFS technologies to bring their designs to life. The new innovation fund was established with three goals in mind: to boost the ecosystem in three ways:

  • Equity investments in disruptive startups.
  • Strategic investments to accelerate partner scale-up.
  • Ecosystem investments to develop disruptive capabilities supporting IFS customers.

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“Intel is an innovation powerhouse, but we know that not all good ideas originate from within our four walls,” said Randhir Thakur, president of Intel Foundry Services. “Innovation thrives in open and collaborative environments. This $1 billion fund in partnership with Intel Capital – a recognized leader in venture capital investing – will marshal the full resources of Intel to drive innovation in the foundry ecosystem.”

Saf Yeboah, senior vice president and chief strategy officer at Intel, said: “Intel Capital’s history and expertise are rooted in chips. Over the last 30 years, we have invested over $5 billion into 120 companies supporting the semiconductor manufacturing ecosystem, from the materials coming out of the ground to the software tools used to implement a design. The investments, which range from pathfinding bets into early-stage companies to deeply strategic and collaborative investments, drive innovation across architecture, IP, materials, equipment and design.”

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About the Open RISC-V Ecosystem: Offering a broad range of leadership IP suited for Intel process technologies is an important aspect of the IFS goal. IFS is the only foundry that provides IP optimized for all three major ISAs: x86, Arm, and RISC-V.

RISC-V, as the industry’s top open-source ISA, provides an unrivaled level of scalability and adaptability. Foundry clients have expressed a significant desire for more RISC-V IP solutions. Intel has planned investments and offers as part of the new innovation fund that will boost the ecosystem and assist drive broader adoption of RISC-V.

By working on technological co-optimization, prioritizing wafer shuttles, supporting customer designs, developing development boards and software infrastructure, and more, the fund will assist innovative RISC-V firms to evolve quicker through IFS.

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Andes Technology, Esperanto Technologies, SiFive, and Ventana Micro Systems are among the RISC-V ecosystem’s most prominent partners. IFS intends to offer a variety of RISC-V IP cores that have been validated and performance-optimized for various market areas.

IFS will optimize IP for Intel process technologies by cooperating with top vendors, ensuring that RISC-V operates best on IFS silicon across all sorts of cores, from embedded to high-performance. There will be three types of RISC-V offerings available:

  • Partner products manufactured on IFS technologies.
  • RISC-V cores licensed as differentiated IP.
  • Chiplet building blocks based on RISC-V, leveraging advanced packaging and high-speed chip-to-chip interfaces.

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A robust open source software ecosystem, in addition to hardware and IP, is essential for accelerating the growth and adoption of the RISC-V processor and completely unlocking value for chipmakers. IFS will fund an open-source software development platform that will allow partners from throughout the ecosystem, as well as institutions and consortia, to experiment freely.

To support this program, RISC-V International, a global nonprofit organization dedicated to the free and open RISC-V instruction set architecture and extensions, announced today that the company has joined.

“I’m delighted that Intel, the company that pioneered the microprocessor 50 years ago, is now a member of RISC-V International,” said David Patterson, emeritus professor at the University of California, Berkeley, distinguished engineer at Google and vice chair of the board for RISC-V International.

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About the Open Chiplet Platform: Chip architects are increasingly embracing a modular approach to design, moving from system-on-chip to system-on-package designs, thanks to sophisticated 3D packaging technology. This allows complex semiconductors to be divided into “chiplets,” which are modular blocks.

Each block is tailored to a specific function, giving designers unrivaled freedom to mix and match the best IP and process technologies for a given product. The ability to reuse IP also saves the time and expense of bringing a product to market by shortening development cycles.

While several segments provide prospects, the data center business is one of the first to adopt modular architectures. Many cloud service providers (CSPs) are developing specialized compute machines with accelerators in order to improve data center performance for workloads like artificial intelligence.

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When compared to installing accelerator cards near CPU boards, tightly integrating accelerator chiplets in the same package as a data center CPU allows for much higher performance and lower power consumption.

Because modular architectures bring together design IP and process technology from various vendors, really harnessing their value requires an open ecosystem. IFS is facilitating this ecosystem with its open chiplet platform, which was co-developed with CSPs to help customers’ accelerator IP integrate faster into the platform and packages.

The platform will combine Intel’s packaging leadership with IP optimized for IFS’ advanced process technologies, as well as services to help customers reduce time to market through integration and validation.

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Intel is also committed to working with other industry experts to create an open standard for a die-to-die connection that allows chiplets to interact at high rates. The industry can drive a new, open ecosystem that will enable interoperable chiplets from different foundries and process nodes to be packaged using a variety of technologies by leveraging a strong track record of widely deployed standards such as USB, PCI Express, and CXL.

Customers who value the ability to easily integrate accelerators optimized for new and evolving data center workloads are enthusiastic about the new open chiplet platform.

Shubham Sawarkar

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