CEO Talk: Jean-Luc TRIOULEYRE of IC’Alps

This interview was held with TRIOULEYRE Jean-Luc, CEO & cofounder of IC’Alps.



Tell me a bit about your background? How did you first get started with ICAlps?


I started my career as a digital engineer developing FPGA for what became the WIFI. A wonderful experience in a research lab within an international company (RF antenna were made by one of the design center in Japan at that time). Then, I moved in a company in order to design boards for Telecom applications (ATM, and few others protocols), before jumping in the ASIC world: first quad-processor and ten-processor (for DSL aggregator) devices in late 90’s. In early 2000 after the explosion of the Internet bubble, I set up a company making digital ASIC on-demand, and working also on our own solution gathering multiprocessors and peripherals together with embedded FPGA to provide a new era of flexibility in the ASIC. To make the long story short, fundraising was quite difficult for a Hardware fabless company. Therefore, after 4 years, a customer bought us to develop innovative solution for image & video improvement for smartphones. Moving from technical to business side, I changed in 2011 to develop business in ASIC making in particular for mil/aero markets. And early 2018, looking for a new challenge, I had open discussions with a French holding interested in incorporating an ASIC company dedicated for 50% to medical applications (wearable as well as implanted devices): it was the launch of IC’Alps!


Tell me about ICAlps?


We set-up the company early March 2018 in Grenoble (in the French Silicon Valley ecosystem) with a real start-up spirit, around a team mixing experienced and younger engineers, with all the jobs needed in a genuine full turnkey offer covering from ASIC specification, design, prototyping, and complete supply chain management in pre-series and volume production.


Our team is very proud about the collective achievements after 18 months of activities: 30+ collaborators, 15 project starts and first silicon results good hopefully so far, 50% of our projects targeting medical applications, premises extension, to name but a few.


Beside the full involvement in the success of IC’Alps, friendly events are really important to build a team spirit – some posts on social media testify.


My focus about IC’Alps: a good place to work, still growing, with interesting & challenging projects. Two maxims I like repeating internally and externally: “To work seriously without taking yourself seriously” and “The two secrets of success: quality and creativity – Paul Bocuse”.


 What problem did you see that needed to be fixed? What is your approach to solving that?


Ideas of innovation are numerous but implementation using only electronic devices available off-the-shelf appear not to be sufficient or efficient depending on the challenges of targeted applications: low power consumption is key when product is on battery (such as IoT type of product), form factor & qualification, security or long life cycle (IoMT, mil/aero), etc.


Therefore, our positioning is to make the ASIC on-demand for customers in order to address their requirements in their applications with the best compromise cost – time-to-market -performances, mastering analog, mixed-signal and digital expertise within IC’Alps’ team.


And as a SME, we keep the ability to serve application with rather small and medium volume (from few tens to hundreds samples during the prototyping phases) up to a few hundred – a few million range in production.


How was the role/offering of ICAlps changed during the recent past?


Our strategy from the beginning is to consolidate our position as ASIC designer & supplier in France & Europe before serving worldwide customers, with a focus on our quality system to be compliant with ISO13485 (medical) and EN9100 (aeronautics) norms.


Our goal is to help customers and in particular small companies in the medical field, who face difficulties to design the needed electronics for implementing their ideas into proof of concept. So, we are investigating the capability to invest in our own ASIC development platform, compliant with ISO13485, targeting medical applications.


Which market segment seems promising to you?


Definitively the medical market and more precisely the Active Medical Device appear to be challenging in a technical point of view to gather more physiological parameters consuming less and less energy, as well as on a business side considering hundreds of millions of sensors in the coming years, with a real trend in the digitalization of the systems. It brings also a real challenge regarding security at the system level (in particular when wireless communication is implemented) as patient’s data have to be protected. This is a way we expect to contribute to the societal challenge of a better life for populations…


Nevertheless, the background of the team and all the experience and knowledge acquired in the medical applications are used to propose solutions in other markets.


Last but not least the news of this summer: ARM elected us Approved Design Partner. A very positive achievement as many ASIC the team is working on have embedded microprocessor(s).


What is a typical customer for ICAlps?


We are serving all type of customers from small structure to better established companies as well as international groups.


Small companies are working with us for feasibility study to have in hands the complete picture (planning and budget) needed for an ASIC in their product that often drive their fundraising effort.


More established companies are considering IC’Alps thanks to our recognition as a trusted partner.


Customers are focused on time-to-market, first-time-right, price, etc. Do you see a change in customer behaviour in recent years?


The three mentioned priorities are always here:

  • Time-to-market is key versus their competitors
  • First-time-right is mandatory regarding technical challenges (performances) and investments (time and cost) in having ASIC fully qualified ready-to-use in the final application
  • Price is always present in the negotiations. Well-balancing cost and credibility of solutions is indeed a touchy decision during the partner selection process by our customers. Moreover, keep in head that lower cost solution is sometimes not the best choice in particular for state-of-the-art challenging ASIC.


Our mission is clearly to help our customers to secure their time-to-market and ROI!


The good sign is when a customer for which we made a first design is deciding to move forward with us for the next one: the quality of the job made by our technical team, the way it went with the customer’s team, the ability to adapt ourselves to his needs and constraints are very important elements.


On top of that, most of our customers want to focus themselves on their innovations, at the system level. It is the reason why we develop our ability to manage the supply chain with worldwide partners (IP providers, foundries, and packaging & test houses).


What are the top things you wish your customers would do better (or different)?


As a rather young structure, we will be interested in having Go/NoGo decisions taken in a shorter period of time. Presales effort is significant and we invest a lot, up to some experiments & trials (block design, simulation, synthesis & place/route) made by our technical team. But our capacity in these phases is limited and has to be dimensioned versus the number of design wins.


On the other hand, during the partner selection process, we expect the customers to compare apples with apples: our way of doing is to edit complete quote with a commitment on results (of course assuming that specifications are not changing) and a sustainment until the end of the product life.


Are you currently hiring? What type of jobs?


Yes, we are looking at any opportunity inside the technical team: analog design, digital design, physical implementation, with experience in medical devices wearable or implanted, in IoT with low-power challenges …


The growth of IC’Alps makes us also attentive to unsolicited applications as soon as interesting expertise and experience are present.


What is your #1 advice for people who want to work for/ who think to apply for ICAlps?


I warmly recommends those people to envision what they could bring to a fast-growing company dedicated to customers’ application and as team player (curiosity, experiences sharing, mutual assistance, proposals, overrun of functions, etc.).


What is your feeling about ICAlps?


IC’Alps is an always exciting adventure, with a solid team and an ambitious project.


And since my first experience of starting a business, I thought I wanted to try again to make different choices, with this spirit of entrepreneurship, to create sustainable jobs, within a motivated and voluntary team.


Thank you for the trust of all the involved actors in this story that we build to be long and prosperous humanly and business wide.


Where can one find more information?


Do not hesitate to visit our website www.icalps.com, and have a look on the social network on LinkedIn and Twitter. Moreover, the e-mail address [email protected] is a good way to be in touch, or [email protected] for an application.


And for people passing through the Grenoble region, they can stop by for a fruitful coffee break.

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