Intel Turns Up Heats in Competition for Foundry Chip Service Market

Intel is turning up heats in the competition for leadership in global foundry chip market, threatening to shake up the duopolies – TSMC and Samsung Electronics.

The world’s largest PC processor titan said that it will create a new US$1 billion fund to support startups and established companies building disruptive technologies for the foundry ecosystem – a move to expand its own foundry ecosystem.

Armed with an unmatched wealth of physical IPs, software tools,  innovative chip architectures, and advanced chip-packaging technologies, Intel’s foray will comes as a huge threat to market leaders TSMC and Samsung.   

Intel’s geographical position is threatening, too, as the close concentration of its chip facilities around U.S. and European fabless chipmakers will become big advantages, allowing it to better serve them without frequent disruptions in supply chain network.   

Jointly created by Intel Capital and Intel Foundry Services (IFS), the fund will mainly finance investments in capabilities that speed up foundry customers’ time to market, enabling them to use Intel’s rich library of IPs, software tools, various chip architectures, and packaging technologies.

For example, Intel will allow its foundry ecosystem partners -mostly fabless chipmakers – to leverage Intel’s modular chip design approaches that support an open chiplet platform and multiple instruction set architectures (ISAs) like x86, Arm and RISC-V.

“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 investment fund and open chiplet platform, we can help drive the ecosystem to develop disruptive technologies across a full spectrum of chip architectures,” said Pat Gelsinger, Intel CEO.

Chiplet Modular Approach

With the advent of advanced 3D packaging technologies, chip architects are increasingly adopting a modular approach to design – moving from system-on-chip to system-on-package architectures. This provides a way to partition complex semiconductors into modular blocks called “chiplets.” (Credit: Intel Corporation)

Intel’s open chiplet platform is a sort of Lego-like modular chip design scheme that string together many of tiny ICs called as chiplets on an interposer in a single package.

The chiplet platform leverages advanced packaging and high-speed chip-to-chip interfaces.         

“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. Our 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.”

A key part of the IFS strategy is to offer a broad range of leadership IP optimized for Intel process technologies.

Rich in IPs and Software Tools

IFS is the only foundry to offer IP optimized for all three of the industry’s leading ISAs: x86, Arm and RISC-V.

As the leading open-source ISA, RISC-V offers a level of scalability and customization that is unique in the industry.

There is strong demand from foundry customers to support more RISC-V IP offerings. As part of the new innovation fund, Intel is planning investments and offerings that will strengthen the ecosystem and help drive further adoption of RISC-V.

The fund will help disruptive RISC-V companies innovate faster through IFS by collaborating on technology co-optimization, prioritizing wafer shuttles, supporting customer designs, building development boards and software infrastructure and more.

Intel is joining forces with leading partners in the RISC-V ecosystem, including Andes Technology, Esperanto Technologies, SiFive and Ventana Micro Systems.

IFS plans to offer a range of validated RISC-V IP cores, performance-optimized for different market segments.

By partnering with leading providers, IFS will optimize IP for Intel process technologies to ensure that RISC-V runs best on IFS silicon across all types of cores, from embedded to high-performance. Three types of RISC-V offerings will be made available, including partner products manufactured on IFS technologies, RISC-V cores licensed as differentiated IP, and RISC-based chiplet building blocks.