Nikkei identifies three EDA startups that are part of China’s attempt to reach self-sufficiency in the semiconductor sector.
The three companies are: X-Epic of Nanjing, Hejian Industrial Software of Shanghai, and Advanced Manufacturing EDA Co., or Amedac, of Hefei.
X-Epic was founded in March 2020 by Wang Libin, a former vice general manager at Synopsys China. TC Lin, former vice president at Cadence joined X-Epic in August and Tiyen Yen of Cadence is joining X-Epic to run R&D. Hejian Industrial Software, founded in May 2020, hired an R&D executive from Synopys in October.
Amedac was founded in September by Chieh Ni, a ten-year veteran of Synopsys with investment support from Synopsys, according to the report. Synopsys has taken a 20 percent stake in the startup and Ge Qun, chairman of Synopsys’ Chinese operations sits on the board of Amedac. Other investors in Amedac include Summitview Capital and the State Institute of Microelectronics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
This represents a second effort in EDA as previously established Chinese EDA companies, including Empyrean Software (2009) and Primarius Technologies (2010), have been unable to catch up technically and have made little impact in the market.
China has spent many years building up domestic suppliers of semiconductor manufacturing equipment including such names as Advanced Microelectronic-Fabrication Equipment Inc. (AMEC), China Electronics Technology Group Corporations (CETC) that are various companies rooted in research institutes, North Microelectronics Inc. (NMC) and Shanghai Micro Electronics Equipment Co. Ltd. (SMEE).
China’s leading foundry SMIC is trying to put together a 40nm production line made entirely without US equipment and Shanghai Micro Electronics Equipment Co. Ltd. (SMEE) is working on lithography equipment close behind the leading edge. SMEE is reported to be working with communications equipment company Huawei to build a US-free wafer fab (see Huawei’s ‘US-free’ Shanghai wafer fab takes shape).
More recently it has made attempts to take control of isuppliers of intellectual property cores. It has done this in the case of Imagination Ltd. (see Opinion: China has had its way with Imagination) and there is a dispute centered on ARM China (see ARM’s China struggle threatens $40bn Nvidia deal).
But as US restrictions on the supply of technology made with – or containing – technology originating in the US have bitten in 2019 and 2020, it is clear that a US monopoly on leading-edge IC design software can be used to exert control of Chinese access to competitive semiconductor technology (see US embargo causes Huawei to run out of Kirin processors).
This has now made domestic leading-edge competence in EDA a high priority for China.
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