Spain has the opportunity to become a protagonist in the European race for independence from the United States and Asia at the material level. In the midst of the semiconductor crisis, of the European Union are working on a project to create their own chips and the Barcelona Supercomputing Center (BSC) was chosen to run it.
With a budget of 8 million euros over the next three years, the eProcessor project aims to develop the first European open source chip. A chip with RISC-V architecture, which seeks to become the free alternative to designs based on Intel, AMD and ARM.
In addition to coordinating the project, from Spain they want to take another step and conversations are already active to determine who will start production. “Work is underway nationally and internationally to see which Spanish and European companies can manufacture them», Explains Nadia Calviño, Vice President of Economic Affairs and Digital Transformation.
In early June, Bosch announced a new semiconductor plant in Dresden, Germany. An ambitious project of common European interest (IPCEI) which shows the interest of creating our own material. However, the European chip project goes further, focusing on its development and design. This is what we know about this promising project.
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The European open chip project was born in Barcelona
At the end of 2019, a team of 30 researchers from the Barcelona Supercomputing Center, the National Microelectronics Center and the Computer Research Center of the National Polytechnic Institute of Mexico demonstrated the initial “lizard” design, name given to the first open source chip, based on the ISA architecture.
“The fact that they are open claims bypass the possibility of chips integrating the rear doors or instructions that may be prejudicial to the security or privacy of users, ”explained Mateo Valero, director of BSC.
In this case, the chipset is based on 65 nanometer TSMC transistors. In mid-2021, the same team announced the second generation of Lagarto processors, already sent for manufacture via Europractice. The design is still based on RISC-V and its name is DVINO (DRAC Vector IN-Order). The new generation chip includes a core with the Lagarto processor as well as a Hydra vector processor.
In its second generation, the chip improved its performance by 15%, added new drivers and increased the area to 8.6mm2.
The eProcessor project will be framed in other supercomputing projects such as “European Processor Initiative”, “Low-Energy Toolset for Heterogeneous Computing”, “MareNostrum Experimental Exascale Platform”, “POP2 CoE”, “Tulipp”, “EuroEXA” or “ExaNeSt”.
While some versions of the eProcessor are intended for supercomputing and data servers, it is also working on the use of this RISC-V chip in artificial intelligence for advanced driving assistance systems (ADAS), processors for cars as well as CPU for IoT and mobile devices.
Regarding the use of the RISC-V architecture, in an interview with Engadget, Mateo Valero, director of the BSC explains that “now all supercomputers use Linux because this guarantees the compatibility of the application downwards, but what n is not compatible in general it is a hardware. with another. What happened back then with Linux is now happening with hardware thanks to the RISC-V architecture. We are promoting that Europe can develop supercomputers with European hardware. “
Organizations, universities and companies participating in the eProcessor project.
Of the 8 million euros budgeted for European funds, 1.2 million euros will go to Barcelona Supercomputing Center, which coordinates the project. The rest is shared between Chalmers University of Technology (Sweden), Idryma Technologias Kai Erevnas Institute (Greece), Degli Studi Di Roma La Sapienza University (Italy), manufacturer Cortus (France), Christmann Informationstechnik + Medien (Germany), University of Bielefeld (Germany), Extoll Gmbh (Germany), Thales (France) and Exascale Performance Systems (Greece).
The movements for its manufacture begin
“The only option Europe has if it wants to be independent in the field of high-performance computing it simply involves the development of RISC-V processors. And it is a political decision. There is no other solution, ”explains Valero.
This week, in statements to various media, Pedro Mier, president of the Multisectoral Association of Information Technology, Communications and Electronics Companies (AMETIC), explained that meetings are already taking place to launch a LOSS for the design of these electronic chips and to start their production. .
A project to reduce our dependence on Europe, carried out from Spain and based on a free architecture which can become a powerful alternative to the traditional proposition of the big manufacturers.
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