Designers get a virtual swap-shop

A trading exchange to make it easier to buy and sell ‘virtual electronic components’ is to be set up by Scottish Enterprise on its new semiconductor design campus in Livingston, West Lothian. Virtual components are products not yet physically developed. Until now trading such products has been difficult: they are guarded by intellectual property law, […]

A trading exchange to make it easier to buy and sell ‘virtual electronic components’ is to be set up by Scottish Enterprise on its new semiconductor design campus in Livingston, West Lothian.

Virtual components are products not yet physically developed. Until now trading such products has been difficult: they are guarded by intellectual property law, and companies wishing to access them have to go through an expensive legal process.

‘There is no standard set of business processes to access components that don’t exist,’ said Andy Travers, chief executive of the project.

Travers said the so-called Virtual Components Exchange would provide such a mechanism, and free up trade within a secure legal framework.

Virtual components are in increasing demand by semiconductor manufacturers with the development of ‘system-on-chip’ technology, which allows a greater number of components to be put on a single piece of silicon. Few chip manufacturers have sufficient virtual components in-house to design into their products.

The Scots legal system could provide added protection against abuse of intellectual property rights, said Travers. It might be possible under Scots law to get a court interdict to halt production of a product from the outset, if its IP agreement is being abused. This would be impossible in the US, said Travers.

The Livingston campus, which includes an academic institute to carry out research into system-on-chip design, has already attracted US chip design company Cadence Design Systems. It will set up its largest design facility, creating up to 2,000 jobs over seven years.