Columbus company wins $2M-plus from DOD for integrated circuit design house
Ramy Tantawy has a big vision for the young integrated circuit design house, SenseICs, that he co-founded here in Columbus.
“I wanted to build the next silicon farm to compete with Silicon Valley,” Tantawy says.
Tantawy and co-founder Dale Shane Smith, an Ohio State University electrical and computer engineering research scientist, have planted some pretty potent seeds already.
They’re tapping into Department of Defense networks, winning more than $2 million in Army, Air Force and DOD research contracts with an eye on large-scale commercialization of the various concepts they’re developing.
Along the way, Tantawy says SenseICs can play an important role in revitalizing the U.S.’s semiconductor manufacturing industry, leading to a more secure supply chain and more well-paid manufacturing jobs.
SenseICs, while incorporated in 2021, was founded in early 2017. Tantawy and Smith saw a gap in the industry, especially in Ohio, for providing integrated circuit (IC) design as a service.
“Typically if you need an integrated circuit piece to fit into a technology you develop, you could go buy an off-the-shelf part. But in some very specific cases and some niche markets, you need something that’s not easily available, or available at all,” says Tantawy. “If you’re trying to develop a new solution, that is often the case.”
Tantawy had a decade of experience working with image sensors and integrated circuits and had come to Ohio State seeking to expand his knowledge into communication and radio frequency applications. Smith’s expertise lay in radiation-hardened ICs such as those used in high-energy particle accelerators.
The pair realized between the two of them they had the expertise to fulfill the needs of advanced research being conducted all over the federal government, especially on behalf of the DOD.
The company’s most recent work is in the area of 5G electronics component design for the Air Force’s innovation agency, AFWERX. That puts SenseIC’s work squarely in an area of strategic interest to the US—the development of 5G intellectual property and hardware.
“We’re hoping by building this kind of design service in Ohio, we are playing role in expanding that industry locally and domestically in the US,” Tantawy says. “We’ve been relying on foreign countries to design all ICs and tech. In every aspect of life, ICs are used, not just phones, everything. And we manufacture only 12 percent of them.”
He points out that a manufacturer like Intel’s workforce is almost double that of Facebook.
“When you build an economy only focused on software, you’re not building your workforce. We need both,” he says.
Cynthia Bent Findlay is a freelance writer.
1275 Kinnear Road, Columbus 43212
Business: Integrated circuit design
CEO and co-founder: Ramy Tantawy
2020 revenue: $819,000
Revenue to date: $2 million in research funding