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Flexible Licensing, Boundless Innovation: How Arm is Accelerating Partner Success

A changing compute landscape in the age of AI requires new ways for companies to accelerate innovation.
By Will Abbey, EVP, Chief Commercial Officer, Arm

When Arm burst onto the scene 30 years ago, the company transformed chip design with efficient processing technology that helped spark the mobile revolution. Arm technology has evolved from something primarily used in mobile phones to a vital processor in virtually every type of computing environment, from the tiniest, power-constrained devices in the field to the world’s fastest supercomputers. More than half of all chips that ship with processor every year are Arm-based, and that figure grows annually. More than 250+ billion Arm-based chips shipped to date.

But Arm also introduced a licensing model that transformed digital innovation. The licensing model charged a fee upfront for technology access and negotiated royalties based on partner chip sales. The model was broadly adopted, and IP cores became the primary way chip and systems companies accelerate their innovations.

But the nature of design has changed in the age of AI and software-defined everything: Companies need new ways of accessing foundational technologies to accelerate their innovation.

What changes in the compute landscape are driving Arm’s licensing evolution?

Today, companies in all segments are leveraging Arm technologies – once used mostly in mobile phones – in everything from the fastest supercomputers to the tiniest sensors at the edge of the Internet of Things (IoT). And as company requirements have changed, Arm has evolved its licensing model to enable faster, more efficient innovation.

Today, engineers, solution architects, and software developers demand two main things:

  • Easy access to a broad array of hardware and software technology to realize their innovation dreams.
  • Licensing models that not only support that access but do so in a cost-effective manner.

That’s why Arm not only continues to provide some of the world’s most advanced processor IP, but also continues to revolutionize technology licensing to meet the diverse needs of its global innovation ecosystem. Traditional licensing methods still have their place, but companies are increasingly requiring greater access and flexibility to advanced technologies to maintain a competitive edge.

Arm’s innovative approach to IP subscription models is designed to cater to a diverse audience, from academics to large enterprises, and everyone in between: solution architects, systems architects, business leaders, and product managers.

With the vision of meeting and exceeding the demands of engineers, developers and architects, Arm introduced Arm Flexible Access in July 2019 and, a year later, Arm Total Access.

How do Arm’s licensing models fuel innovation and access?

The licensing models are designed to help companies achieve three goals:

  • Accelerate innovation
  • Simplify access for design and development
  • Maximize success 

Arm Total Access – Arm’s most comprehensive range of the latest technology and tools – is for companies that need access to some of the most advanced Arm technology, including the latest Cortex CPUs, Neoverse CPUs, Mali GPUs (graphics processors), and CoreLink System IP. The annual subscription also gives access to a wide array of models, support, training, and development tools. The Arm Total Access subscription includes the manufacture rights needed to tape-out, and scales with the needs of the partner. Royalties are paid for the IP used in chip when it is distributed.

With Arm Total Access, users get to spend more time optimizing their designs by accessing these technologies, mixing and matching IP that broadly accessible. In short, Arm Total Access gives users access to more, and newer, products, with faster evaluations.

Arm Flexible Access is a program crafted to accelerate design for companies that want to experiment with a wide portfolio of proven and trusted Arm technology and tools without complex licensing terms. Subscribers can access a wide range of technology – with more features added all the time – and only pay license fees for IP used in their final chip design and only at the point of manufacture. As in Arm Total Access, royalties for the IP used are paid when a chip is distributed. The Flexible Access model offers flexibility to innovate with Arm technology on demand, and for qualifying startups, access is available for free. This pay-as-you-go model is specifically designed to cater to startups, small, and medium enterprises in the electronics technology sector.

Accelerating innovation

What our partners are saying:

James Adams, Chief Technology Officer (Hardware), Raspberry Pi

“We jumped at the chance to design our RP2 microcontroller products with Arm Flexible Access, and were one of the first companies to tape out through the program. Compared to traditional licensing models, being able to audition different Cortex-M processors before deciding which to select was a far better match for our engineering processes.”

In what ways is Arm helping partners maximize success?

Arm helps partners get new SoCs to market faster by helping them:

  • Stay up to date on design and development tools. 
  • Avoid delays due to complex business processes. 
  • Stay ahead of the competition with the best products delivered quickly. 
  • Design on a proven platform. 
  • Maximize product lifecycle revenue, profit, and competitive position.  

Arm’s licensing revolution is resonating broadly. To date, there are 20 Arm Total Access subscribers, including more than half of Arm’s top 20 customers, and more than 200 Arm Flexible Access members.

In many cases, it’s introducing new partners to Arm technology who previously hadn’t considered it. In other cases for example, companies that have embraced Arm subscription models that once licensed a single Arm CPU are evolving their designs to use more Arm processing elements including GPUs, AI accelerators (NPUs), and Image Signal processors – to create more powerful and intelligent solutions for their customers. This not only elevates their design creativity but ensures that the expanded IP blocks they’re using work seamlessly because it’s all Arm technology. In turn, companies are consuming much more Arm IP because the subscription models allow them to get more return on their investment with access to more Arm IP.


Regardless of application, engineers use Arm technology in some form, and so Arm has changed its pioneering business model to enable all the world’s chip designers with access to Arm technology to spark the innovation for building the future of computing.

Thirty years on, a core philosophical tenet of Arm’s original IP licensing model underpins its expanded subscription strategy to foster innovation: Arm only succeeds when partners succeed. And Arm partners succeed when they not only leverage Arm technology but have flexible and effective ways to access that technology.

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