SRC launches industry consortium

Semiconductor Research Corporation (SRC), a university-research consortium for semiconductors and related technologies, has launched a significant new initiative on Trustworthy and Secure Semiconductors and Systems (T3S). The first major phase of T3S research is a $9 million joint effort over the next three years with the National Science Foundation (NSF) focused on Secure, Trustworthy, Assured and Resilient Semiconductors and Systems (STARSS).

The goal of T3S is to develop strategies and tools for the design and manufacture of chips and systems that are reliable, trustworthy and secure. This includes increasing resistance and resilience to attack or tampering and improving the ability to provide authentication throughout the supply chain or in the field.

Initial T3S industry participants include Advanced Micro Devices, Freescale, Intel Corporation and Mentor Graphics. The initiative is also open to companies that are not already members of SRC. NSF is the first federal partner.

“Semiconductor-based hardware is at the heart of today’s interconnected and intelligent systems — from the GPS in your car and your phone to transportation, financial, energy and other critical infrastructure systems,” said SRC President Larry Sumney. “As we increasingly depend upon these systems, their trustworthiness, security and reliability are more important than ever.”

NSF’s involvement in T3S is part of its Secure and Trustworthy Cyberspace (SaTC) program. The program aims to improve the resilience of software, hardware and critical infrastructure while preserving privacy, promoting usability and ensuring trustworthiness through foundational research and prototype deployments.

Secure, Trustworthy, Assured and Resilient Semiconductors and Systems (STARSS)

Today, design and manufacture of semiconductor circuits and systems includes extensive verification and testing to ensure the final product does what it is intended to do. Similar approaches are needed to provide assurance that the product does not allow unwanted functionality, access or control.

This includes strategies at all stages, from architecture through manufacture and throughout the lifecycle of the product,” said Celia Merzbacher, SRC Vice President for Innovative Partnerships. “Being able to assure that a product performs as designed and does nothing else is what Trustworthy and Secure Semiconductors and Systems research is about.”

Design and manufacture of complex semiconductor circuits and systems, which can contain billions of transistors, requires many steps and involves the work of hundreds of engineers — typically distributed across multiple locations and organizations worldwide. Moreover, a typical microprocessor is likely to include dozens of design modules from various sources. Designers at each level need assurance that the components being incorporated can be trusted in order for the final system to be trustworthy.

“The increase in complexity and fragmented supply chain compounds the need for focused research,” said Keith Marzullo, director of NSF’s Division of Computer and Network Systems. “The academic research community is well-suited to perform the fundamental research that will lead to robust technological solutions. And the collaboration between NSF and SRC will provide pathways for results to efficiently move into practical use.”


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