Arm is launching its Flexible Access business model that allows chip designers to experiment with different chip designs before they have to pay for the final selection.

Rather than pay upfront for chip design tools, customers can use the new model to experiment, evaluate, and undertake full projects with a wide range of Arm intellectual property. Those customers can get unlimited design access for custom silicon designs, and they only pay for what they use in production.

The model represents a new way for partners to access and license Arm’s technology for semiconductor design, and it is well-timed for this internet of things (IoT) age — when lots of different products will be designed for a wide variety of purposes — said Dipti Vachani, senior vice president and general manager of Arm’s automotive and IoT business, in an interview with VentureBeat.

Above: The reasons why Arm is embracing Flexible Access.

Image Credit: Arm

“This is a new way of working with partners and removing the barrier to innovation,” Vachani said. “It really gives customers access and partners access to a large portfolio of intellectual property.”

Several partners, including AlphaIcs, Invecas, and Nordic Semiconductor, have signed onto this new Arm engagement model and can now access its range of IP products, support tools, and training. Arm Flexible Access complements standard Arm licensing, which will continue to be the best option for partners seeking access to Arm’s full product portfolio and most advanced IP.

“We have partners today that are brand new, and they have traditionally never designed chips,” Vachani said. “This requires for us to be more flexible, easier to engage with, and give them access to our portfolio so they can explore. They need agility upfront.”

Typically, partners license individual components from Arm and pay a license fee upfront before they can access the technology. With Arm Flexible Access, they pay a modest fee for immediate access to a broad portfolio of technology, then pay a license fee only when they commit to manufacturing, followed by royalties for each unit shipped.

Above: Arm Flexible Access gives customers the option of experimenting more.

Image Credit: Arm

This portfolio includes all the essential Intellectual Property (IP) and tools needed for a system-on-chip (SoC) design, making it easier to evaluate or prototype with multiple IP blocks before committing to licenses.

IP available through Arm Flexible Access includes the majority of Arm-based processors within the Arm Cortex-A, -R and -M families. These CPUs accounted for 75% of all Cortex CPU licenses signed over the last two years. It also includes Arm TrustZone and CryptoCell security IP, select Mali GPUs, and system IP, alongside tools and models for SoC design and early software development. Access to Arm’s global support and training services is also included.

“The rapidly progressing artificial intelligence space requires our team to stay ahead of our customer’s needs,” said AlphaIcs CEO Nagendra Nagaraja in a statement. “Arm Flexible Access enables us to incorporate the right Arm CPU in Quadric’s Edge SOC to deliver real-time computing on edge devices. We are excited to be an early adopter.”

Vachani said Arm’s tech is used in more than 145 billion chips, but if the company is to hit its target of another 100 billion chips within the next four years, it will need new kinds of models.