Sub-threshold processor startup gets funds

October 12, 2016 // By Peter Clarke
Minima Processor Oy (Oulu, Finland) has received €1.6 million (about $1.8 million) in equity funding to help it develop subtreshold voltage processors.

VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd and the universities of Aalto and Turku have developed jointly a technology that can perform digital computing up to twenty times more energy efficiently than conventional CPUs. Minima was founded in April 2016 to commercialize that technology and has joined the RISC-V open hardware foundation as a founding partner.

The main efficiency increase comes from voltage sub-threshold voltage operation and by the elimination of timing margins at nominal operating voltages, Minina said. In particular, there are patents on how to optimize microprocessor operating points dynamically. According to a report the clocking in Minima's design is adaptive synchronous rather than asynchronous. Minima provides a middleware stack with its hardware that provides compatibility with dynamic voltage and frequency scaling (DVFS) regimes.

The seed funding comes from CFT Nordic Capital Ltd., VTT Ventures Ltd and private investors.

The company plans to pursue a technology licensing business model and deliver its technology to other semiconductor companies. In initial phase, Minima is aiming at Internet of Things applications before expanding into other market areas.

Minima is following in the steps of Ambiq Micro Inc., which launched its Apollo family of Cortex-M4F based microcontrollers (MCUs) in January 2015. The Apollo MCUs operate at voltages from 3.8V down to 0.5V. However, Ambiq is a fabless chip company while Minima is an IP licensor and appears to have added a layer of sophistication in terms of its middleware.

The Minima technical approach has been proved in silicon with near-threshold designs. Minima has already started licensing its technology and has customers working on an LTE CAT-0 level telecom DSP and a hearing aid DSP, the report said.

The company was co-founded by Toni Soini (CEO), Lauri Koskinen (CTO) and Jani Mäkipää (chairman).

www.minimaprocessor.com