LIVINGSTON, Scotland Micro Linear Corp. has announced plans to open a development center in Livingston, Scotland, boosting the ambitious Alba project, which is looking to establish a cluster of system-level design companies in the area.
Micro Linear (San Jose, Calif.), a fabless chip company with mixed-signal expertise in physical-layer transceivers, plans to employ up to 50 designers and engineers here within the next three years. Their initial focus will be on designing communications chips.
Micro Linear joins in the region Cadence Design Systems Inc. (San Jose, Calif.), the EDA tool and design-services company whose support helped launch Project Alba in December 1997.
"Micro Linear is fortunate to have found in Scotland a group of engineers all skilled in high-speed, mixed-signal design, a talent in great demand within the industry," said David Gellatly, president and chief executive officer of Micro Linear. "We expect the size and scope of our Scottish development center to continue to grow as the initial cost-effective products designed there meet the required schedule and cost goals and are successfully introduced into a very competitive market."
The Livingston development center will house Micro Linear's second U.K. design group. In May 1997 the company created a design center in Cambridge, England, that now has a staff of 10 creating wireless communications chips.
Scotland's Alba project involves more than encouraging chip and design companies to locate in Scotland. It also includes an educational initiative, the Institute for System Level Integration, which is intended to help provide a flow of industry-savvy Scottish university graduates. The Livingston campus is also the site of the headquarters of the Virtual Component Exchange, which is seeking to streamline trade in intellectual property cores. These various elements of Project Alba are being fostered by Scottish Enterprise, Scotland's national development agency.
In 1997 Cadence announced plans to employ up to 1,800 chip and systems designers on the Alba site by the middle of the next decade. Cadence currently employs about 175 people in Livingston and is preparing to move from temporary office space into a building being erected on the campus.
Speaking of Micro Linear's announcement, Marc Cannon, general manager of Cadence's Livingston system-on-a-chip design center, said, "It validates the whole Alba concept. It's a huge step forward. We are trying to make a campus environment and for that you need more than one company," he said.
Cannon said there will be at least two forms of competition between Cadence and Micro Linear, "on the customer front and on the recruitment front. But it's now possible to go out to engineers on a worldwide basis and show them there's a choice of companies to work for in Livingston.
"On the customer front, I wouldn't rule out making joint customer calls with Micro Linear," Cannon said.
The announcement of Micro Linear's Livingston development center comes shortly after the official opening of the Institute for System Level Integration, which will offer a master's program in system-level integration this October.
The Institute is also working on several projects with Motorola and with the mobile-communications group at the University of Strathclyde, including one to develop software and hardware that reduces a mobile phone's tendency to drop calls in urban environments.