The CEO of RISC-V International said potential government restrictions on open-source technology would slow the development of new and better chips, hindering the global tech industry, according to a Reuters report.
These comments come after Reuters reported last week that a growing group of U.S. lawmakers are urging the Biden administration to impose export controls on RISC-V technology, the open source technology overseen by the non-profit RISC-V International foundation, which can be used as a component to build chips for smartphones or artificial intelligence.
What is RISC-V?
RISC-V is a free and open architecture for instruction sets. based on the reduced instruction set computing (RISC) principles. Unlike most other instruction set architectures, RISC-V can be freely used for any purpose, meaning there is complete freedom to design, manufacture, sell and program RISC-V chips.
RISC-V is not the first open instruction set, but its significance lies in that it was designed to be used on a wide range of devices.
The project began at the University of California, Berkeley in 2010, but many contributors are volunteers and industry workers outside the university.
The term RISC comes from the phrase “reduced instruction set computer,” while the letter V represents the number 5 in Roman numerals.
Major American companies like Qualcomm and Google’s Alphabet have adopted RISC-V, as have Chinese companies like Huawei Technologies, which U.S. lawmakers say pose security concerns for U.S. national systems.
Difference Between RISC-V and Other Technologies
In a blog post, Calista Redmond, CEO of RISC-V International – which coordinates work between companies on the technology – said RISC-V technology is no different than other open technology standards like Ethernet, which helps computers communicate with each other over the internet.
Redmond wrote, “The actions governments are contemplating to impose unprecedented restrictions on open standards will have a steep cost, stalling access to global markets for products, solutions and talent.”
Redmond said RISC-V has attracted a lot of interest from North America, Europe and Asia. She explained that the standards published by the foundation are not a complete chip blueprint and do not provide any party more information on how to build a chip than what is available from proprietary chip technology companies like Arm.
She added, “The only difference between open source technology and others is that chipmakers in the market are allowed to use these standards without needing licensing from a proprietary rights-holding company.”
Redmond continued, “Access to open standards allows companies to innovate faster and spend their time creating different products, instead of trying to reinvent the wheel.”