SoC Hub, a boost for Finnish companies and its role in EU technological sovereignty

Mr. Ari Kulmala Professor of Practice of System–on–Chip design Tampere University,
Ms. Suvi Lammi Coordinator, SoC Hub Tampere University,
Mr. Oliver Hussey, Senior Business Advisor Invest in and global operations Business Tampere

In roughly the past 15 years, companies worldwide have started to differentiate themselves by building (System-On-Chip) SoCs in-house instead of using general-purpose hardware and outsourced SoC design. The era of generic computing resourcing is close to an end. Most advanced technology companies rely on their silicon chips for technology leadership, and millions of investments are being made worldwide. The phenomenon and increased demand have led to a global shortage of experts.

The recently announced EU Chips Act aims to strengthen the European technological sovereignty and boost Europe’s capacity in the technological race with Asia and the US. EU Chips Act will also contribute to solving the shortage in chip production. Massive, tens of billions of dollar investments in the area are being planned. Today, top-level technology is created mainly outside of Europe, and typically, European companies use technologies that don’t represent the state-of-the-art. Finland, on the other hand, has always known how to make use of leading-edge technology.

Kuvituskuva: Unsplash (18.11.2021)

The significance of technological development is constantly growing. The future of any leading-edge company in Finland requires strengthening the know-how in the field of System-on-Chip design. It is a way to gain a competitive advantage, giving companies a major technological leap forward. Our competitiveness is tightly linked with having the SoC expertise in our own hands. The SoC Hub was established to help Finland stay on top of the industry and face the challenges that come with it.

In Finland, Tampere University has been the leading educator of digital designers for a long time. The growing need for SoC design expertise has been anticipated by deepening the university’s System-on-Chip training. Tampere has long been a base for SoC design from the industry perspective as well. For example, Tampere has been a crucial R&D center for Nokia’s SoC activities.

The SoC Hub initiative, coordinated by Tampere University and Business Tampere, was established in 2020 to develop a national ecosystem for System-on-Chip design. It strengthens the expertise in Finland and helps currently integrated chip companies to build their competence to the next level. Furthermore, it combines academic research and business activities and aims to enhance the international competitiveness of Finnish companies amidst the ongoing transformation of circuit technology.

SoC Hub helps companies to take the technological leap by, for example, sharing expertise and giving access to technologies for developing an SoC. It is available not just to companies already developing SoCs, but now other companies have the opportunity to create their chip for the first time. This possibility would be otherwise unattainable for many companies. The ecosystem activities focus on enhancing competitiveness when it comes to the final product. The aim is to create better chances for European technology companies to reach the top in the global technological race.

In the project funded by Business Finland, Tampere University and businesses are co-creating three system-on-chip tape-outs (SoC sent for manufacturing) in three years. The first chip will be completed at the end of 2021.

Putting efforts and investing in the ecosystems can increase the possibilities to get more international investments to Finland. In addition, the SoC Hub brings a substantial competitive advantage to Finnish businesses across any industry that uses ICs, which today is practically all industries. It also will help Finland play a more critical role in becoming self-reliant in required technologies.