Supporting Academic Institutions – A Corporate Responsibility?

You don’t have to be a big company to support academic research.


Innovation is rooted in collaboration, and there’s no better example—when done correctly—than the partnership between the various academic institutes or between the industry and academia. It’s a symbiotic relationship: Companies get access to leading research, ideas and creativity, while universities and research consortia get access to proven technologies, methodologies and experienced engineers.

Partnership with research institutes is nothing new. Academic research institutions and private industry share a rich history of collaboration dating back to the early 20th century. One of the earliest examples, a joint R&D effort between Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Standard Oil of New Jersey, resulted in a critical technological advancement in petroleum refinery.

Over the last few decades the academic-industry partnerships have evolved to become increasingly robust and collaborative as a result of growing economic volatility and a rapidly changing technological landscape that has redefined the way people work, exchange information and conduct research. Public funding for academic research has slowly but steadily declined in recent years, with the majority of available research budgets skewed toward limited fields of study. Research grants have become increasingly difficult to acquire in the face of greater competition and narrowed focus as there is a growing concern whether the research has any immediate application. As a result, with shrinking budgets, research institutes are forced to ask industry for help especially in the area of software, EDA tools etc.

But a partnership with the research institutes has been the privilege of large companies, which can apply resources to monetize the research done by these institutes or at the very least afford to be magnanimous even when there is no evidence of any immediate returns. So how does a small enterprise such as ClioSoft find itself having an academic program in the narrow EDA space, when its focus should have been to maximize the efforts to have more growth instead of investing resources in an academic program, which would not provide any returns?

But then ClioSoft has always been an unusual company. Started by Srinath Anantharaman two decades ago, ClioSoft has grown slowly but steadily grown to now have over 250 customers, the likes of which include industry stalwarts such as TSMC, Global Foundries, SMIC, On Semi, Broadcom, Mediatek, Cadence, etc. During the recession of 2008 when companies were vying to get their hands on every dollar they could, ClioSoft gave its software away at discounted prices to companies hard hit and trying to survive. And at heart ClioSoft continues to remain a very strong engineering company with a strong sense of ethics and fair play.

Srinath, who studied at one of the premier engineering institutes of India – the Indian Institute of Technology – has always believed that every engineer has the social responsibility to help in any way for the betterment of science. The opportunity to help out came in the form of Dario Gnani from Lawrence Berkeley National Labs who was looking for a way to collaborate on their projects with other research institutes. The word spread and soon after, and ClioSoft’s SOS design management platform found its way into CERN, where it played an important role in designing ICs for the Large Hadron Collider.

For Wojciech Bialas, an engineer who worked with teams on CAE tools management and foundry design kit support at the experimental physics department at CERN and home to the world’s largest and most powerful particle collider, the challenges were great. How does one create an environment in which globally dispersed teams using non-centralized tools could work together most efficiently to design ASICs for the Hadron collider? Says Bialas, “It is not rare that the problem of design data management is left underestimated by project managers and/or design engineers. Ad-hoc methodologies that worked in the past among IC design project members do not necessarily work correctly today, since the complexity of designs and process design kits only increases with time.” To wrestle the challenge to the ground, Bialas reached out to ClioSoft through the company’s academic program. Maurice Garcia-Sciveres of Lawrence Berkeley National Labs, who participated on the design project, later delivered a paper describing how the team used ClioSoft’s SOS Design Collaboration Platform to manage the complex designs. What worked for these engineers was that the platform was very easy to set up, malleable to meet their unique requirements and completely supported by the support team at ClioSoft despite the low cost of the educational licenses.

I wrote more about this project earlier this year and this belief worked out well for the CERN team but the story doesn’t end there. Slowly but surely, the SOS design management platform has become the defacto choice of the physics research community. Research organizations such as CNRS (France), INFN (Italy), IMEC (Belgium), Fraunhofer & DESY (Germany), and Nikhef (The Netherlands) have embraced ClioSoft solutions through our university program. In the United States, so too have Lawrence Berkley Labs, Brookhaven and Fermi. Additionally, the Universities of Pennysylvania, UC Santa Cruz, Southern Methodist, RWTH Aachen, Juelich, Tyndall, Geneva, Liverpool, Bonn, and Barcelona are some of the notable academic establishments relying on the SOS Collaboration Platform.

After noticing the widespread adoption of ClioSoft’s design management in the European academic and research community Europractice decided to help distribute ClioSoft’s products. Europractice is an initiative with the objective of stimulating the wider adoption of electronic system design methodologies & technologies for non-commercial research and teaching within academic institutions and publicly funded research laboratories in Europe. At ClioSoft we look forward to more opportunities to partner with researchers around the world on tomorrow’s most innovative design projects.

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