Minima on Semiconductor Times 8/2016
(Reprinted with permission from Semiconductor Times)
“Minima Processor was founded in April 2016 to commercialize technology that enables energy efficiency improvement of up to 20X in digital processors compared to legacy solutions. The company is a spin-off from two Finland universities, Aalto University and University of Turku, and the governmental research institute VTT. Tekes, the Finnish Funding Agency for Innovation, has provided funding. Minima has raised 40k euros to date and is currently raising a seed round with a target of 1.5M euros, scheduled for completion by mid-August. Minima has 5 employees.
Minima’s primary efficiency increase comes from ultra-low voltage (subthreshold) operation and the elimination of timing margins, which brings gains at nominal operating voltages. The clocking in Minima’s technology is slightly adaptive, but still a synchronous design. Compared to other low power solutions, which depend on time consuming ad-hoc NRE, Minima’s solution is fully scriptable and mainstream CAD compliant, which allows it to scale over different architectures and semiconductor processes.
The company also has middleware tied to the technology, enabling excellent compatibility with fine-grained DVFS. The technology incorporates efficient software-transparent energy saving procedures in a software transparent way efficiently, without explicit software intervention. In addition, the middleware provides a bi-directional interface to software ensuring that a task can operate at minimum energy, temperature compensation, or aging compensation at all operating conditions.
Minima’s technology is semiconductor process agnostic. As customer interest is in TSMC 40nm, it will be used for product verification. Previously Minima technology has been proofed with three fully measured semiconductor runs (32-bit near-threshold RISCs). A RISC-V-based chip with crypto accelerator is under development.
Ambic has developed ultra-low power real-time clocks and ARM Cortex-M4F-based MCUs using subthreshold technology. Minima argues that Ambic’s subthreshold technology is mainly ad-hoc. In contrast, Minima’s subthreshold technology is fully industry standard CAD compatible, thus allowing faster design over various IP and/or semiconductor processes. Additionally, Minima believes its software integration is a major advantage. PLsense (in this issue) has also developed an ultra-low power MCU based on subthreshold technology.
Minima plans to pursue technology & IP licensing. Technology licensing has already started. Two customer cases (LTE CAT-0 level telecom DSP and hearing aid level DSP) are in design. The customer cases are commercial market-proven IP, meaning that the customers will receive an ultra-low-power version of their IP based on Minima’s technology.
Toni Soini, Co-founder & CEO (previously project and business development specialist at Aalto University; R&D Director at Broadcom, Renesas and Nokia)
Jani Mäkipää, Co-founder, CPO (Senior Scientist at VTT)
Lauri Koskinen, Co-founder & CTO (Research director at University of Turku)”