RISC-V Emerges As Semiconductor Market Saviour Post Covid, Reaches $156 Mn

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By 2030, RISC-V will reach 53.4% AI accelerators, 26.9% FPGAs and 19.9% MCUs

RISC-V intellectual property (IP) revenues rose to $156 million in 2023, with an estimated compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 39.5% through 2030. RISC-V architecture played a major role in the post-COVID era’s recovery and growth of the dynamic semiconductor market. The RISC-V open source instruction set architecture (ISA) has revolutionized system-on-chip (SoC) design strategies across numerous sectors, sparking extensive exploration of CPU architectures and notably affecting device revenues, unit shipments, design starts, and IP licensing revenues worldwide. 

Projections show RISC-V-based SoC unit shipments increasing to 16.2 billion units, with revenues reaching $92 billion by 2030. The RISC-V IP movement, initially popular in academic settings for educating students on IP and complex SoC silicon design, has expanded beyond academia to the wider SoC design community. This includes major companies like Qualcomm, Samsung, AMD, Nvidia, Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and Intel, all of which are exploring RISC-V in various capacities. Google and Qualcomm have announced the development of RISC-V-based platforms for wearables, and Meta has revealed a RISC-V project for data center applications.

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RISC-V penetration in SoCs

SoC architectures leveraging 3rd party IP are experiencing significant growth across Industrial, automotive, networking, computer, consumer, and other categories, primarily fueled by the expanding AI market. SoC design starts using RISC-V CPU cores are expected to hit 1,371 designs by 2030, with a CAGR of 15.7%. 

AI Accelerators are expected to reach the highest penetration out of all the device types. In 2022, the penetration was 10.3% and 13.4% predicted for 2023. By 2030, RISC-V will reach 53.4% AI accelerators. This is attributed to the widespread integration of artificial intelligence (AI) in various applications and SoC solution for those applications. 

The second highest penetration in 2022 was the field programmable gate arrays (FPGAs), reaching 0.1% and were predicted to grow to 3.3% in 2023. By 2030, the RISC-V based FPGA market is expected to reach 26.9%.  This is because FPGAs tend to have a higher average selling price compared to most other SoCs. Most of the RISC-V usage in FPGAs will come from soft IP cores, which can be added at any time, even after the device’s initial configuration. This is a valued feature of FPGA programmability and re-programmability. 

The SHD Group estimates microcontroller units (MCUs) with RISC-V CPU cores to have the 3rd highest penetration, with 2.5% in 2022, 3.5% prediction in 2023 and 19.9% by 2023.

The adoption of RISC-V, whether through home-grown licensed IP or sourced semiconductor solutions from the general market, is expected to increase, thereby expanding the global volume of RISC-V-based devices. This shift towards RISC-V architecture marks a pivotal moment in semiconductor design.

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