How innovation drives research and development
An ARM case study

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Page 4: Development

Arm 17 Image 9Development involves transforming ideas into a product fit for market. From numerous ideas at the research stage, ARM will take only a few with potential into the development stage. The key elements of the development process include:

  • A product brief – identifying what market need it fills. To produce a product brief, ARM works with around 1,000 companies. These companies may be ARM customers, competitors and collaborators all at the same time. ARM’s engineers talk to partners who make the microchips to establish what is possible technically and its market-focused people identify what the market is asking for.
  • A product specification – outlining the main features, benefits and costs. ARM combines this feedback and establishes priority needs. These are then evaluated to focus on the application which will lead to a deliverable product.
  • A process of evaluating alternative solutions – through computer modelling, samples or prototypes. ARM will select lead partners for specific projects. The partners’ R&D teams then work with ARM’s R&D team to develop the initial idea.
  • A sequence of testing – to check the product meets requirements. Once tested, the design is then licensed to the partners to manufacture, on which ARM receives royalties.

Development of the Cortex-M0+ processor

Arm 17 Image 7The development of ARM’s Cortex-M0+ processor, which was released in early 2012, is a world-leading innovation. It has the lowest energy consumption of any processor and generates low carbon.

The Cortex-M0+ (M class) is a very simple processor. However, its profile reflects the concept of ‘machine to machine communication’. It is believed that this is the next major step in technology. For example, it could automatically control a fridge’s temperature depending on whether it is full or empty.

Typically projects take around 18-24 months. However, the Cortex-M0+ had a relatively short timescale. Initial conception of the idea was in December 2010. The project team was set up in April 2011 and delivery to the customer was in February 2012 – just 10 months of development time after the specification was finalised. The ARM team involved is proud of achieving completion to such a tight timescale.

Project planning

The project path followed a clearly defined structure:

  • The idea was generated via the feedback from product managers and the marketing managers.
  • An outline product specification was devised by working with the lead partner Freescale.
  • The project team of three key people including a Project Manager was created. The project team determined the required team size, estimated schedule, agreed stages and milestones to meet customer requirements. The project approval also included deciding how Cortex-M0+ would fit into the existing ARM ‘roadmap’ (or timetable) of products already underway and planned for the future.

Arm 17 Image 2ARM’s typical project process gives opportunity for lead partners to add their influence or interact with the product development team. This might include changing the specification or having early access to the product for testing.

Freescale was given access to Cortex-M0+ at the beta design stage. This enabled them to develop a prototype which could be demonstrated at conferences and to key customers. This generated early interest in the product and reduced the time to market, which increases the revenue potential for ARM and Freescale.

ARM | How innovation drives research and development