IC’ALPS, UNLOCK THE POTENTIAL OF APPLICATION SPECIFIC INTEGRATED CIRCUITS
IC’Alps is a fabless semiconductor company developing state-of-the-art fully custom Integrated Circuits (IC) combined with a complete management of the supply chain.
Interview with Lucille Engels, Co-& COO of IC’Alps.
Easy Engineering: A brief description of the company and its activities.
Lucille Engels: IC’Alps is an ASIC (Application Specific Integrated Circuit) design and supply center located in Grenoble, France. Their job is to design chips for customers who did not find a solution fitting their innovation. The companys also manages the supply chain (foundry, packaging & tests) from prototyping up to the production of the circuit.
IC’Alps is a fully independent Design Center meaning that we are not owned by any semiconductor market stakeholder. And with a team of 50+ designers (and looking toward a considerable growth in the near future – stay tuned) dedicated to ASIC design, IC’Alps is one of a very few structures in the world that can claim to be both large (in the ASIC design landscape) and act with a total freedom when it comes to design, technology or supplier’s choices. The three of which being always strategic for our customers. We actually bring full customization to our customers along with the reassurance that his idea will come to true realization.
E.E: What are the main areas of activity of the company?
L.E: IC’Alps can leverage considerable expertise in Analog, Digital and Mixed-signal ICs thanks to a well-balanced team of designers. This translates in a versatile panel of circuit-level applications and features:
vital signs monitoring
ultra-low power (in the range of nanowatts)
Our customers are active in the Healthcare, Automotive, IoT/AI, Industrial, Digital security and Aerospace markets.
IC’Alps is, additionally, certified for two international standards: ISO 13485 for Healthcare and EN 9100 (AS9100 / JISQ 9100) for Aerospace.
E.E: What’s the news about new products?
L.E: As a service center, our work ultimately belongs to our customers.
In the meantime, we can benefit from fundings that fuel our R&D efforts. A very good example is uVisia, a biomedical platform ready to be fitted to customer needs. A prototype of this intellectual asset (it is not a product strictly speaking) was recently fabricated, tested and used as a demonstration of our know-how.
This first prototype (an electrocardiogram acquisition chain) is a great innovation because with its ultra-low power consumption (nanowatt range) blocks, we can support our customers to design their DMIA and perform their validation/certification in humans.
L.E: As a service center, we sell time and expertise from the applications requirements until the delivery of circuits (ASIC/SoC) in package and tested for our customers
E.E: At what stage is the market where you are currently active?
L.E: The ASIC market faces several challenges nowadays.
First, the Non-Recurring Engineering (NRE) costs remain important and needs to be assessed with the targeted performances; indeed, an ASIC allows to reach performances that standard products cannot reach.
Second is the level of innovations brought by founders themselves allowing to manufacture Integrated Circuits (IC) that are smaller, more powerful, and in larger quantities.
Third is an entry skill crisis in Europe where all microelectronic stakeholders face difficulties in their recruitment.
Fourth can be viewed as circumstantial with, in 2022, a semiconductor supply shortage that created long lasting repercussions on our prices and timings.
By creating a good work environment that mitigates turnover, allow for expertise and knowledge preservation while growing to answer the increasing needs of our customers, we believe IC’Alps is in a very good position to face the first three challenges. By engaging in long lasting partnerships with our customers and suppliers (we will have big news on that in the coming weeks, stay tuned), IC’Alps also has the tools to fight the fourth one.
E.E: What can you tell us about market trends?
L.E: Our projections show growth everywhere leveraged by the Automotive and electrical vehicules, IoT/AI and Digital security markets. Our job from now on is to convince our customers that an ASIC is the solution to answer all their requirements.
E.E: What are the most innovative products marketed?
L.E: The ASIC is a smart solution to decrease the power consumption in electronic systems. When you decrease by decades the power consumption of a system, you can either increase the usage time of the system in the same range between two refuel or decrease the battery size and in this way the usage of rare materials. So, the ASIC, well defined, can be a solution for saving resources of the planet.
E.E: What estimations do you have for 2023?
L.E: The Application Specific Integrated Circuits or ASIC will continue to play a crucial role in the future innovations in healthcare, sensor interfaces, electrical vehicles, … and will help system makers to reach their commitments to follow-up the new regulations and constraints.
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