Driving leading edge chip design from Europe

October 21, 2020 // By Nick Flaherty
Driving leading edge chip design from Europe
A UK chip design house is aiming to become one of the world’s major custom chip supply chain services providers. Graham Curren, chief executive of Sondrel,  talks to Nick Flaherty about its 7nm and 5nm designs, recruitment and the plans for the company.

There is a company in Europe regularly doing leading edge, large chip designs on 7 and 5nm process technologies. Sondrel in Reading, UK, is the largest chip design house in Europe and aiming to be one of the largest supply chain companies for the custom chip business. It already works with the major foundries, but is now offering support all the way from concept to finished, packaged chips.

“We do design and ASIC supply, focussed on digital designs in newer technologies, principally FinFET. In terms of the history we are 19 years old with design centres in China, India, Morocco and the UK and with a sales and technical support office in the US in Santa Clara,” said Graham Curren, founder and CEO of Sondrel. 

“There’s a lot of design services companies in Europe but we are bigger with over 200 staff and have the capability to do designs. Everything is below 28nm and the vast majority below 16nm and there isn’t really anyone else in Europe with that capability and not many in the world – GUC, Socionext, Faraday Technology and Alchip,” he said.

7nm chip designs

It is starting third leading edge design for a networking chip. The second recently taped out and was over 600 square millimetres in size using a 7 nm process node.

“The chips are designed using our Outsourced Design Consultancy (ODC) service,” said Curren. “We supply a team of design engineers that work exclusively for a customer as though they were within that company. This is a very popular working arrangement for our big customers as they know that they are using a team that is experienced at working both together and as an embedded, integrated part of the overall project team. This gives much better results than the alternative of customers using individual design engineers. In addition, each ODC team has access to the whole of the rest of our 200 plus engineers to brainstorm for ideas, additional skills and experience.”

Next: Early stages 

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