In May 2020, the United States upgraded its technology blockade against Huawei, announcing that all manufacturers using American technology and equipment must apply to the US Department of Commerce when supplying Huawei. This disguised "application" basically cuts off the possibility of Huawei obtaining chip technical support from the United States.

After the ban was issued, there was an uproar around the world. Huawei's important partner, the world's most advanced chip manufacturer, TSMC, has been under a strong investigation by the United States, and may no longer be able to supply Huawei. This is the most concerned issue of the Chinese people, and it also reflects the serious lack of advanced chip manufacturing technology in my country.

However, before the chip manufacturing process was restricted, a lesser-known technology with a more "deadly" impact had been blocked by the United States [21], which is known by the industry as the "mother of chips" and the "crown of the chip industry". On the Pearl" EDA software.

The importance of EDA software to the chip is equivalent to the importance of the operating system to the computer. Chips that are no more than a dozen millimeters long contain billions or even tens of billions of transistors. If any one goes wrong, the chip cannot be used. Therefore, each chip must be precisely designed before being manufactured. The EDA software is the basic tool for chip design. Without it, the entire chip industry chain would collapse.

For a long time, EDA software has been monopolized by three companies: Cadence, Synopsys and Mentor Graphics. There are only about ten manufacturers in my country that can provide commercial EDA software. Although compared with the international first echelon, they are still very weak. But with a breakthrough from 0 to 1, they have brought great hope for the localization of chips.

Recently, Core Vision was reported to the Science and Technology Innovation Board as the first EDA manufacturer in China and became the focus of the market. Its EDA software can effectively support chip process and technical analysis, and serve chip design manufacturers. Supported by EDA software, Chip Vision has served tens of thousands of chip companies around the world. Sixty percent of the top ten semiconductor companies in the world, such as Qualcomm, Intel, and Samsung, are the company's service targets.

So, what exactly is the core vision EDA software technology? Can it break through the "life gate" of the chip industry and shoulder the heavy responsibility of China's chip independence?

The chip "Crown Pearl" EDA software is commercialized

In the 50-year history of EDA software, we have not had the opportunity to stand on the top of global technology.

Before 1994, the "Paris Coordinating Committee" imposed an EDA software embargo on China, forcing my country to develop its own EDA software, the Panda system. However, with the lifting of the embargo in 1994, domestic EDA software research and development almost stopped. The idea of ​​"buying is worse than buying, and renting is worse than buying" prevails. With imported software, few funds are willing to patronize this industrial R&D field that is "hard to grind in ten years".

Looking back now, the decades-long technological gap has already formed a huge gap. The characteristics of EDA software determine that this gap is difficult to bridge in a short period of time.

On the one hand, different from general software, EDA software must be deeply bound to the semiconductor production process to support chip development. Therefore, the "Moore's Law" of semiconductor hardware also constrains EDA software. That is to say, with the rapid update and iteration of semiconductor processes, EDA software also needs to be continuously updated to support hardware development. As a result, continuous high R&D investment always accompanies EDA software manufacturers.

Take Kengteng Electronics and Synopsys as examples. Since 2010, both have spent more than 30% of their operating income on research and development every year. In 2018, Kengten Electronics invested more than 1 billion US dollars in R&D.

On the other hand, the EDA software chain is very long, involving the whole process of front-end design simulation, back-end layout planning, and physical verification. In order to expand the market, EDA manufacturers often extend the entire chain through mergers and acquisitions to build software platforms. According to statistics, in the history of mergers and acquisitions of EDA companies in the United States, only three leading manufacturers, Kengteng Electronics, Synopsys, and Mentor International have participated in more than 200 mergers and acquisitions. This kind of platform resources integrated by high capital investment constitute a powerful moat for leading manufacturers.

To sum up, the high R&D and platform nature of EDA software determine the monopoly pattern of the industry. It will be very difficult for latecomers to enter the pie. For many years, the world's three major manufacturers have occupied more than 95% of my country's market share, giving domestic enterprises a very "small" space to play.

In 2002, Core Vision was established. Most of its teams came from the Department of Computer Science of the University of Science and Technology of China, and they were only 30 years old. In the face of the monopoly giant, the technology and capital are still quite weak, how to deal with it?

From the very beginning, Chip Vision chose the path of "specialization" and "refinement", and only positioned its EDA software as "used for chip analysis and design services" rather than a comprehensive software platform. The so-called chip analysis is to analyze the technology and process of existing chips in the market, either to learn and learn from first-class technology, or to identify intellectual property rights and prevent patent infringement.

In order to serve the field of chip analysis, Chip Vision focuses its research and development on important links such as image acquisition, processing, and verification. On the one hand, the company strives to improve the compatibility of products and mainstream EDA software in the market for commercial use, for chip analysis needs, or for some chip design companies; Enter the field of chip analysis and lay a solid foundation.

Under this development idea that only focuses on subdivisions, the core vision has made a breakthrough. Today, it is one of only 10 or so EDA software suppliers in China. Its six major software product lines and 38 software products can realize data interaction with mainstream EDA software, and support various standard data formats such as OpenAccess and SPICE.

However, we cannot deny that the annual revenue of Core Vision is about 4 million yuan, which is far from the world-class manufacturers, and even the largest domestic EDA manufacturer Huada Jiutian. However, its commercialized EDA software has helped the company develop the field of chip analysis and design services, and has become an international leading chip analysis manufacturer. Since then, Chip Vision has accelerated the localization process of chips from another perspective.

"Dismantling" the chip helps the latecomers to rise

Inventory of other domestic chip analysis manufacturers, such as Shengjingwei, Shenkete, etc. Although they also have self-developed basic software, they are only for their own use.

It is not difficult to speculate that the reason why these chip analysis manufacturers have not implemented software commercialization is that their products are not mature enough in terms of circuit diagram clarity, support for technological advancement, and data interaction with mainstream EDA software. The commercial software of Core Vision has proved its solid technical basic skills.

With the support of self-developed EDA software, Chip Vision has gradually grown into an international leading chip analysis manufacturer.

Compared with TechInsights, a first-class company in the United States, the core vision is not inferior. The smallest process it can analyze is 7 nanometers, and its technology is comparable to TechInsights in terms of packaging analysis, image acquisition, etc. Today, Core Vision analyzes more than 6,500 products every year, and has more than 1,500 customers, and is gradually closing the scale gap with TechInsights.

Considering the general environment of China's semiconductor market, manufacturers with advanced technology analysis capabilities such as Chip Vision are destined to become "sweet pastry":

The late start is an unchangeable fact of my country's chip industry. For many latecomers, how to catch up with the "predecessors" faster? In addition to concentrating on technical principles, it is equally important to learn the first-class technology of "predecessors" and improve themselves accordingly.

For example, in the analog chip market, which is highly dependent on the experience of designers, my country's self-sufficiency rate is less than 14%. In high-end fields such as industry, the self-sufficiency rate is less than 5%. In order to make up for the lack of experience of domestic practitioners, chip analysis is very necessary. Manufacturers clearly present the process details and circuit layout of advanced chips to young designers, so that they can see how their predecessors have condensed decades of experience on a single chip, which in turn inspires them to improve chip performance and shorten R&D cycles. .

In terms of patent protection, chip analysis is also an indispensable link.

With the rise of more and more outstanding domestic manufacturers such as HiSilicon and Spreadtrum, my country's awareness of patent protection is also increasing. From 2013 to 2018, the compound annual growth rate of the total number of patents disclosed in the integrated circuit field in my country was 10.8%, but at the same time, from 2009 to 2018, the compound annual growth rate of the number of first-instance intellectual property cases heard by the people's courts was as high as 28.1% , much faster than the growth rate of patent applications. It can be seen that patent protection is very important to the development of enterprises.

Chip Vision integrates information such as common images or circuit data accumulated in the project, and forms its own chip patent database. At present, the company's database contains more than 31,000 integrated circuit products and more than 67,000 chip technical reports. In 2018, the revenue from intellectual property analysis and appraisal of Core Vision exceeded 28 million.

From 2017 to 2019, Chip Vision’s chip analysis revenue more than doubled from 55.2 million yuan to 129 million yuan; its net profit increased rapidly from 25.94 million to 75.94 million. The high performance growth rate proves the high service value of Chip Vision in the Chinese semiconductor market.

However, through the volatile performance of some products of Chip Vision, it is not difficult to see that chip analysis is a highly customized business, and it is not easy to quickly increase the volume. In the past three years, the company's chip technology analysis, intellectual property analysis and identification of revenue and gross profit have shown a trend of fluctuating growth. The reason for the fluctuation is that the projects are of different difficulty and scale, and the manpower and time cost of the company are also different.

How to extract the commonalities of years of service experience, form standardized products, and then do more "time-saving and labor-saving" business, is the problem that Core Vision has to consider after expanding the scale of chip analysis.

Design services drive new growth

The IP authorization service is an important achievement of Chip Vision's service standardization in recent years.

The so-called IP is a verified and reusable module on the chip, which has some specific functions and is loaded on the chip and can be "plug and play". This process is similar to building blocks, and the chip IP is like a part of the building blocks. By assembling the pre-assembled parts, you can quickly build a complete model.

In 2011, there were only 534 chip design manufacturers in my country, and by 2018, this number has grown to 1,638. Behind this, it reflects the reality that my country's chip design industry is developing and growing, and the competition is becoming increasingly fierce. The number of homogeneous chips on the market is increasing, and for a professional chip analysis manufacturer like Chip Vision, it means that it can capture more and more commonalities of technologies and processes.

Relying on its own EDA software, Chip Vision has formed a database that supports the storage of integrated circuit images, annotations and circuit diagrams of more than 50,000 projects. This has greatly helped the company to condense the commonality of service experience and form its own IP. At present, the company has developed more than ten models of embedded security protection, industrial Internet of Things and control, and general basic IP, and issued more than 30,000 licenses.

Referring to the EDA giant Synopsys and the largest domestic EDA manufacturer Huada Jiutian, they have also accumulated their own IP in the process of business development and developed it into an important performance growth point:

In 2019, as the global semiconductor growth rate slowed, Synopsys' EDA software revenue growth rate fell to 19% from 69% in the previous year. In contrast, the proportion of the company's IP service revenue has risen from 28% to 31%, and is increasing at an average annual rate of 18%, driving the company's strong performance growth.

In the development process of EDA software, BGI also pays great attention to IP training. Its high-speed interface IP independently developed and verified by tape-out can support more than a dozen high-speed interface protocols, and has been successfully applied in customer chip products and mass-produced more than 10,000 pieces.

It can be seen that IP is the business development direction of many EDA manufacturers and has great development prospects.

In 2018, the core vision IP was commercialized for the first time. In 2019, the company's IP licensing revenue reached 10.38 million, an increase of 96% over the previous year. In order to cultivate more high-quality IP, Chip Vision plans to raise 93.73 million yuan for the development of IoT chip IP, and build an IP and product verification platform to speed up IP deployment.

EDA software, the basic tool for chip design, is known as the "crown jewel" of the chip industry. As one of the few EDA software manufacturers in China, Core Vision has attracted much attention. Needless to say, its software is far behind giants like Synopsys. However, with the support of self-developed software, Chip Vision is able to provide chip analysis and design services, and efficiently assist the domestic production of chips. As its EDA software becomes more mature and its services become more standardized, Chip Vision is expected to become the world's top chip service provider.

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