India Announces RISC-V Innovation Contest
India has announced a contest for students and start-ups aiming to increase the awareness and use of Indian RISC-V processor designs. India wants semiconductor self-sufficiency and they are using the free and open RISC-V architecture to archive that goal. Indian citizens can register and propose projects until September 15th.
written by 林慧 (Wai Lin). published 2020-08-22 - last edited 2020-08-22
A green PCB from a 3.5" HDD. It has absolutely nothing to do with RISC-V but it looks relevant to the story if you don't know what it is.
RISC-V is a free and open source instruction set architecture. You can not simply start fabricating your own x86-64 chips without permission from the Americans and you can not make your own ARM chips without permission from the Britannia-based Softbank-owned ARM corporation. You can design, manufacture, use and sell RISC-V chips without asking anyone for permission.
The Linux kernel supports RISC-V. The documentation can be read in
Documentation/riscv and the architecture support is in
The Government Of India is currently holding a contest called the "स्वदेशी Microprocessor Challenge" for Indian citizens, primarily aimed as students and start-ups, where the goal is to make something that is useful and practical using RISC-V processors. The organizers have proposed 25 different areas the contestant can choose between. These include "IoT Based Health Monitoring System", "Night Patrolling Robot", "Smart Garage Door" and "Drones".
The idea is to "promote a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship by taking up complex designs in the country and innovate frugal solutions around home-grown processor ecosystem, catering to both global and domestic requirements".
The contest is part of a greater plan to make India more self-sufficient and less reliant on imported processors and other advanced electronics. "With growing penetration of smart electronics in strategic areas including Space, Defence and Nuclear energy, the need for Swadeshi Compute Hardware is crucial."
Contestants who get through the initial screening process are provided a RISC-V processor and a Xilinx development board free of charge.
Participants can choose between using a 32-bit E-Class or 64-bit C-Class Shakti processor or a 64-bit Vega AS1061. Both are open-source, royalty-free Indian designs. Shakti is developed by the Indian Institute of Technology Madras and the Vega RISC-V processors are developed at the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC). C-DAC is a subsidiary of the Indian Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY).
The Vega AS1061 is the most powerful of the processors the contestants can choose between. It has a RISC-V 64GC (RV64IMAFDC) ISA, a 6-stage in-order pipeline, 8+8 KiB cache and support for up to 127 IRQs. It can run Linux, Zephyr and FreeRTOS. Contestants can not opt to use the more powerful Vega AS4161 chip with a 16 stage out-of-order pipeline. None of the Indian chips are anywhere near as powerful as the Chinese 16-core Xuan Tie 910 RISC-V chip but they are more than good enough for the applications within the scope of the contest. A smart garage door does not require 16 cores running at 2.5 GHz.
Indian citizens can register their interest in participating and their proposed projects at innovate.mygov.in until September 15th, 2020. Participants who get through the initial screening process will then have to submit detailed proposals by November 10th. 10 winners will be announced in July 2021. Those 10 winners will then get 12 months of incubation support with the hope of turning their projects into actual products.
India has a long way to go before they can make desktop and server processors that are competitive with with what the Americans, Chinese and Taiwanese have to offer. This contest is a good step in the right direction.