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  • Marijan Hassan - Tech Journalist

NIST and Google to create new supply of chips for researchers and tech startups

The US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has entered into a research and development relationship with Google to facilitate the development of chips that can be used in new nanotechnology and semiconductor devices.

According to an agreement between the two parties, NIST together with University research partners will design the circuitry of the chips while Google will cater for the initial cost of setting up production and also subsidise the first production run.

The chips will be manufactured at the SkyWater semiconductor factory in Bloomington, Minnesota.

In more good news, the chips will be open source making them available to academic and small business researchers at no cost.

While these types of chips are already available in the market, they are quite expensive which makes them accessible only to large companies with a big budget. The collaboration between NIST and Google seeks to change this by leveraging economies of scale and implementing a legal framework that does not require licensing fees.

University and startup researchers will be the biggest beneficiaries of this arrangement. “By creating a new and affordable domestic supply of chips for research and development, this collaboration aims to unleash the innovative potential of researchers and startups across the nation,” said NIST Director Laurie E. Locascio. “This is a great example of how government, industry and academic researchers can work together to enhance U.S. leadership in this critically important industry,” He continued.

The architecture of modern microelectronic devices comprises layers of components stacked on top of each other with a semiconductor chip taking the bottom layer. NIST and Google’s planned bottom-layer chip will come with specialised structures for measuring and testing the performance of components placed on top of it.

NIST’s plan is to build as many as 40 different chips optimised for different applications. And because they are open source designers will have the freedom to get creative with the design and share data and device designs without limitations.

“Google has a long history of leadership in open-source. Moving to an open-source framework fosters reproducibility, which helps researchers from public and private institutions iterate on each other’s work. It also democratises innovation in nanotechnology and semiconductor research,” Will Grannis, CEO of Google Public Sector said.


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