In the tech space of chip design, India is making significant progress with the adoption of RISC-V (pronounced risk-five), which is an open-source instruction set architecture originally conceived as a research project at the University of California, Berkeley, in 2010. RISC-V has now evolved into a widely embraced global initiative. It offers a compelling alternative to proprietary chip design intellectual property (IP) monopolised by industry giants.
RISC-V is solving a big tech challenge. It is making chip design more accessible. In the past, big tech companies held the keys to chip design, leaving others locked out. Even giants like Apple struggle to create chips from scratch as seen with their recent deal with Qualcomm for 5G modems.
This is where RISC-V shines, especially in India. A growing RISC-V community is forming, with many people getting involved. Professor V. Kamakoti’s team at the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, is playing a significant role, known for their work on the Shakti microprocessors.
In the business world, startups like Mindgrove Technologies are at the forefront. They are making commercial systems-on-chip (SoC) using the Shakti core. These chips are made for different uses like the Internet of Things, computer vision and cars. Shashwath TR and Sharan Srinivas Jagathrakshakan started Mindgrove, which began at IIT-Madras, to build advanced SoCs.
Mindgrove’s first chip is designed for things like biometric systems, home gadgets and other embedded uses. Right now, they are almost done preparing the prototype for “tape out,” which means making the physical chip. If all goes smoothly, the chip can be put on circuit boards without any issues. But if there are problems, they might have to start over.