Imagination Open Access Lowers Barrier to SoC Design

Article By : Nitin Dahad

New Open Access program lowers barrier to SoC design, providing access to a range of Imagination IP, software, and tools with a $0 license fee, just pay for maintenance and support.

Imagination Technologies has made it easier for developers to access selected GPU and AI accelerator IP from the company by removing the licensing fees for those cores. Its new Open Access program provides access to four PowerVR Series8XE GPUs and three PowerVR Series3NX NNAs. A software driver is supplied by Imagination, and compatible open-source drivers are now also available in the market.

One of the challenges for smaller companies developing systems on chip using various IP cores is the upfront licensing costs. Creating a differentiated SoC from the ground up is an expensive undertaking that requires significant knowledge and resources. Clearly companies choose IP as it lowers costs and risks associated with R&D – allowing them to focus on product differentiation. Imagination Open Access provides those early-stage customers access to a choice of silicon-proven IP, lowering overall risk and providing help through technical expertise, tools, and consistent technical support.

Imagination Technologies Open Access
(Image: Imagination Technologies)

Like other similar programs from Arm and Andes Technology, the elimination of license fees with Open Access means the barriers for entry into SoC design is lowered. Hence scale-ups can potentially get create their own designs more quickly for advanced IoT and AI products in applications such as smart homes, smart cities, smart factories, and healthcare technology. Imagination said the way in which its program differs from Arm’s standard Flexible Access package is that the latter provides access to a range of Arm IP, support, tools and training for an annual $200K fee. Once the customer tapes out their design they pay an additional license and once they reach production a unit-based royalty.

In contrast, Open Access provides access to a range of Imagination IP, software, and tools with a $0 license fee. Unlike Arm, there is only a $135K/year fee for engineer support for the first two years. Customers also only pay a royalty once they reach production. This decreases with volume and follows the commercial model after 10 million units.

Imagination’s senior director of strategic business development, Jim Wallace, commented, “Enabling innovation at scale-up levels is essential in driving technological progress across the industry. Imagination’s class-leading, high-quality IP is silicon-proven – meaning it significantly reduces design risk for those who need it most. Our PowerVR Series8XE GPU and PowerVR Series3NX NNAs have shipped in multiple markets from mobile and automotive to consumer devices, DTV and DCD applications. By removing the licensing fee for this IP, Open Access offers a more accessible route to cutting-edge SoC creation.”

Some of the key organizations supporting the semiconductor startups to commercialize and scale up believe initiatives such as Open Access are good for their cohorts.

Silicon Catalyst CEO, Pete Rodriguez, said, “Imagination is a trusted member of our In-Kind Partner (IKP) program, offering access to their high-value PowerVR GPU and AI accelerator design IP for our Silicon Catalyst portfolio companies. We are delighted that the Open Access program will lower financial barriers, enabling a range of early-stage semiconductor companies to accelerate their SoC development. Combining our comprehensive IKP ecosystem resources with Imagination’s flexible and scalable IP solutions will help support the accelerated growth and market delivery of the innovations being crafted by companies in our Incubator.”

Meanwhile, imec vice president and general manager, Steve Beckers, who also heads up the organizations ASIC development service imec.IC-link, said, “imec.IC-link is a complete ASIC solutions provider that can manage the full product life cycle for its customers – serving startups, SMEs and established OEMs as well as universities. As a leading value-chain aggregator for TSMC in Europe and the US, we work with partners that enable our customers to accelerate their SoC designs. Imagination’s Open Access program will enable us to combine our imec.IC-link resources to better support scale-up companies in their journeys to success.”

Adding his thoughts, Zhangxi Tan, a co-director at RISC-V International Open Source Laboratory, RIOS Lab, said, “Imagination and RIOS Laboratory have a strong partnership in growing the RISC-V ecosystem, with our PicoRio open-source RISC-V computer being the first to benefit from the early stages of the Open Access program. We are also grateful for the consistent support from the Imagination University Program, offering GPU and RISC-V course material that equips the next generation of talent with the tools for success. We look forward to leveraging the Open Access program with major global partners in the PC space.”

This article was originally published on Embedded.

Nitin Dahad is a correspondent for EE Times, EE Times Europe and also Editor-in-Chief of With 35 years in the electronics industry, he’s had many different roles: from engineer to journalist, and from entrepreneur to startup mentor and government advisor. He was part of the startup team that launched 32-bit microprocessor company ARC International in the US in the late 1990s and took it public, and co-founder of The Chilli, which influenced much of the tech startup scene in the early 2000s. He’s also worked with many of the big names—including National Semiconductor, GEC Plessey Semiconductors, Dialog Semiconductor and Marconi Instruments.


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