Democratizing IC Design: The SSCS PICO Program

The Solid-State Circuits Society is committed to improving diversity, inclusion and accessibility in integrated circuit (IC) design. We envision a future in which chips can be designed through a web browser, by anyone, anywhere and through open worldwide collaboration.

Through its Platform for IC Design Outreach (PICO) program, the SSCS is working with the rapidly growing open-source community to help accelerate the construction of the required ecosystem. Our goal is to help build and connect to new communities that share our excitement about IC innovation and its democratization toward a new wave of global impact.

The program will provide education, mentoring and collaboration opportunities as well as sponsored fabrication runs. The driving forces and motivations for our program are described further in an SSCS Magazine article.

The timeline below provides a summary of PICO-related activities.

April 2021:

The Solid-State Circuits Directions Committee (SSCD) organizes a free & open online workshop on “Democratizing IC Design” (YouTube, SSCS Magazine article). The event drew over 970 attendees, nearly 50% of which were in the Young Professionals age group. Speaker list:

  • Tim Ansell (Google) “Fully open source manufacturable PDK for a 130nm process”
  • Mohamed Kassem (Efabless), “45 Chips in 30 Days: Open Source ASIC at its best!”
  • Xifan Tang (University of Utah), “Open Source eFPGA implementation in SKY130”
  • Thomas Parry (SystematIC Design), “Amateur Radio Satellite Transceiver”

June 2021:

SSCS sponsors four open-source designs for silicon fabrication through Efabless’ chipIgnite program. The selections reflect our dedication to supporting undergraduates, as well as geographical regions that are presently underrepresented in IC design. Further details on these designs were published in an SSCS Magazine article.

July – November 2021:

SSCS runs its first open-source IC design contest. The contest received 61 submissions and a volunteer jury selected 18 teams from 9 different countries. Through a three-month journey with weekly online meetups, these teams collaborated to combine their designs and fill the available silicon real estate (6 shuttle seats) with a variety of analog and digital circuits (see related SSCS Magazine article).

  • FAST National University, Pakistan, “5G bidirectional amplifier,” Chip 1
  • FAST National University, Pakistan, “Wireless power transfer unit,” Chip 1
  • FAST National University, Pakistan, “Variable precision fused multiply-add unit,” Chip 1
  • Anna University, India, “Oscillator-based LVDT readout,” Chip 2
  • Anna University, India, “Temperature sensor,” Chip 2
  • Anna University, India, “GPS baseband engine,” Chip 2
  • U. Federal de Santa Catarina, Brazil, “Ultra-low-power analog front-end for bio signals,” Chip 3
  • University of Virginia, USA, “TIA for quantum photonics interface,” Chip 4
  • Cairo University, Egypt, “Bandgap reference,” Chip 5
  • University of Missouri, USA, “Neural network for sleep apnea detection,” Chip 5
  • University of the Bio-Bio, Chile, “SONAR processing unit,” Chip 6

March 2022:

SSCS launches a new technical committee focusing on the open-source ecosystem (TC-OSE). TC-OSE will oversee all open-source-related SSCS activities, including the open-source design contest, creation of open-source publication opportunities, as well as curation of best practices and open-source design resources (see SSCS OSE GitHub).

SSCS launches its second open-source IC design contest. Details can be found on the Chipathon homepage.

May 2022: