Chips are down for nanometre tech

Invecas, a Hyderabad-based chip design startup, is said to be at an advanced stage of creating intellectual property (IP) for a 7-nanometre chip for US-based semiconductor foundry GlobalFoundries, with which it has a strategic partnership, reports Times of India. If successful, it makes Invecas the first Indian company to design such a cutting-edge and complex technology (FinFETs) that could be deployed to build high-performance data centres running complex computations with least power consumption.

Other companies that have announced working on 7nm technology include Intel, Samsung and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, or TSMC. Founded in 2014 by serial entrepreneur and former managing director of global chip giant AMD India, Dasaradha R Gude's startup has, over the past several months, added more chip designers bringing their number to 800 through a series of buyouts. "As far as we know, Invecas is the only company from India which is working on this technology with GlobalFoundries," says Invecas' CEO Dasaradha Gude. "It can be used in virtual reality cameras, for high-end computations and to build smaller devices with higher capabilities," he told ET.

According to GlobalFoundries' chief executive Sanjay Jha, 7nm technology, relative to 14nm, reduces power consumption by nearly half, apart from increasing performance by close to a third. Further, in a presentation this week in Hyderabad, he said the 7nm design also reduces the cost per transistor, making it an important node for the industry. "Lot of people in the industry went from 14nm to 10nm and then 7nm," he said. "We made a decision to skip 10nm and go directly to 7nm," said Jha, expressing confidence that they would be in volume production with 7nm chip by next year.

Experts corroborate that 7nm is among the most advanced technologies that will lead to more functionalities integrated onto the chip, reducing power consumption and reducing he size of the chip itself. "The cost of designing a chip using 7nm technology is going to be very high," says Ganesh Ramamoorthy who tracks global markets for semiconductors at research firm Gartner. "Gartner estimates the cost to be upwards of $500 million for one chip design." However, Gude says that the number would be for high-end chips and they were only working towards the building blocks. "We are into designing the IP . If a customer wants us to design the entire chip, we can do that as well," he said.

With approximately $50 million investment thus far in the company , Gude is looking at investing double of that in the next five years. "We have good customers, so that helps us with the investment. But if we are looking at inorganic growth, only then would we need external funding," said Gude, whose company has clients from the fields of Internet of Things (IoT), processors and automotives.

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