UK tops IC design league in Europe

UK tops IC design league in Europe
Report says: Out of 140 design houses in Euripe, 60 are in the UK. David Manners The UK has taken the lead in Europe in high-level IC design. Local firms now account for well over half of all the revenues generated by Europe’s independent design houses, according to a report by analysts Future Horizons. “The level of intellect that’s there is staggering,” said Malcolm Penn, chairman of Future Horizons. The report says that out of 140 design houses in Europe, 60 are in the UK and that, out of total 1998 design revenues of $1.06bn generated in Europe, $604m are generated by UK design houses. The reason why the UK generates more than half Europe’s revenues with less than half Europe’s number of companies is “because of the UK background in telecomms and mixed signal where you have to have the real brainpower,” said Penn. “Where you’re not just linking millions of gates together but you’re hand-crafting the transistors to get performance – these are fabulously intellectual skills and a very scarce resource,” he continued. “It’s back to the days when you had linear designers who would sit for months in the desert drinking Tequila and then come back with a brilliant design,” said Penn. Driving the growth of the design house is the move to system level chips. Because OEMs and semiconductor houses do not need to employ high-level designers permanently, it is cheaper to out-source design work. “Typically these companies are five to 15 engineers with sophisticated software but inexpensive workstations,” said Penn. “The software cost is horrendous but after that it’s all brainpower.” Typically the UK’s design houses are located in clusters: in Bristol where they have spun-off from Inmos, in Swindon where they have spun off from GEC-Plessey Semiconductors (now Mitel Semiconductor), and around the Universities of Edinburgh and Cambridge. European high-level IC design revenues will grow at 34 per cent compound annual growth rate over the next five years, said the report.


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