As we can see with the new Mikron MIK32 chip, the open-source RISC-V architecture opens doors for companies to redevelop existing microcontrollers. That’s becoming even more important as countries around the world look to wean themselves off of Western technologies. But just how feasible is that approach?
Inherited from the USSR, the modern Russian Federation has its own CPU architecture (Elbrus) and platforms to build PCs and servers. In addition, there are Russian companies that develop various Arm-based system-on-chips and controllers. The country also has 300-mm equipment purchased from AMD’s fab near Dresden in the early 2000s. This means that, in theory, Russia could build CPUs for its own domestic needs (yet it will hardly satisfy even 50% of its needs as most programs are designed for x86 or Arm processors).
But there are some major caveats. Elbrus processors were designed to power specific mission-critical applications and cannot be efficiently used for all types of workloads. In addition, other CPU architectures are developed in the UK and the US, actual logic chips are built in Taiwan. In fact, nearly all supporting ICs and microcontrollers are developed in Europe or the USA. That makes it impossible for Russia to replace any significant portion of technology it uses with its own homegrown chips. This is where Zelenograd-based Mikron comes into play with its MIK32 chip based on the RISC-V architecture.