When I was preparing for my visit to Zhuhai for ICCAD 2018 I was speaking with a friend of mine who had just attended a conference in Shanghai run by one of the “big four” accounting firms. She told me her key takeaway from the event was a statement from the keynote – “China is not an emerging market, China is THE market”.

I was keen to know if this statement held true for the semiconductor industry as well.

ICCAD was certainly a large and busy show. One of the most prominent themes was AI and Machine Learning, with talks by Cadence, VeriSilicon, Synopsys, Mentor and others all addressing this space. The second major theme was RISC-V and the emerging ecosystem which featured both in presentations and, perhaps more importantly, on the expo floor – showing that real commercial RISC-V products are now available and that the ecosystem is moving from theory into practice.

In his presentation, Naveed Sherwani of SiFive reinforced my friend’s takeaway message, predicting that China will become the centre of the SoC universe, and noting the significant number of enquiries they have had from China since launching their RISC-V design platform recently.

UltraSoC media briefing during ICCAD

RISC-V was also a very hot topic at the UltraSoC booth, with many people interested to understand how our technology-neutral product set has been expanded to provide the only commercial debug and in-life analytics offering in this space. I had the pleasure of hosting a lunch for several of the leading Chinese editors in our space, where we discussed UltraSoC’s recent successes in the automotive market, including our launch today of a unique “any processor” Lockstep Monitor product and our partnership with Resiltech, with whom we will be jointly presenting a demo of UltraSoC’s hardware-based analytics driving functional safety solutions at the RISC-V Summit in California 3-6 December.

Around the trade-show floor there was much discussion about the recently-announced China-centric RISC-V associations, China RISC-V Industry Consortium (CRVIC) and the China Open Instruction Ecosystem (RISC-V) Alliance (CRVA), with people trying to understand how they fit together and how they fit with the RISC-V consortium. There was considerable concern that unnecessary fragmentation will not yield a good outcome for the industry so it will be interesting to see how these evolve. Click to read this interesting recent article by Junko Yoshida ‘There’s more to the RISC-V China story.’

The ICCAD event lived up to my expectations, with companies from the entire semiconductor ecosystem present in force on the expo floor, and ample evidence of the energy and ambition needed for China to become “THE” market driving our industry forward.