Grenoble IP Cluster Grows into Embedded
The French technology center fosters growth through hardware-software integration while sharing technical IP, business and marketing expenses.
The commoditization of hardware – an acknowledgement of the availability of inexpensive integrated circuits – has spurred tremendous growth in the software side of the electronics business. While this is not a new trend, its affects continue to ripple throughout the world of traditional hardware giants. Consider STMicroelectronics, one of Europe’s premier semiconductor chip providers. Over the last few years, the company has undergone a “culture change,” observed Laurent Julliard, Director at Minalogic, during a recent interview at the DesignWest (formerly ESC) show.
“ST Micro now makes its technology available to small companies,” said Julliard. This technology exchange, combined with the economic incentives provided by the Minalogic group, has fueled the growth of many new startup companies in France’s Grenoble area. The goal of the Minalogic (Micro NAnotechnologies et LOgiciel Grenoble-Isère Compétitivité) global consortium is to support the integration of micro nanotechnologies hardware and embedded software system. Several academic research partners are also involved in the centre, including CEA-LETI. (see, “R&D Focuses on Low Power and Stacked Die”)
During our brief meeting, Julliard highlighted a few of the exceptional startups:
- The Snowball board and the Igloo community that came out of a project founded by Minalogic
- Tiempo IC, design house of true asynchronous microcontrollers. (see, “Is Asynchronous Technology Ready For Prime Time?)
- Kalray, low power massively parallel embedded architecture, Contrast Kalray’s approach to that of Intel’s many cores (see, “IP Core Interconnect leads to MARC at IDF2011″) [Related side note: The OpenMP API specification for parallel programming announced parallel language support for automotive, aeronautics, biotech, and financial applications during the DesignWest timeframe.]
- Docea Power, new generation of methodology and tools for enabling faster more reliable power and thermal modeling at the system level. (see, “The Trouble With Power Models”)
In many ways, France’s Minalogic is similar to Belgium’s IMEC technology partnership and business model. (see, “Avoid IP Patent Battles with Open Innovation?“) Both models aim to foster innovation through the sharing and transfer of intellectual property. Julliard explained that the Minalogic consortium members decide how IP will be used, either in an open or proprietary model. But the benefits of the partnership extend beyond IP to include the sharing of sales and marketing channels, which can often determine the success or failure of a start-up.