BrainChip ASX BRN Akida VORAGO Technologies
The tech companies signed an agreement to support Phase I of a NASA program to develop a radiation-hardened neuromorphic processor.

Technology company BrainChip (ASX: BRN) has unveiled a new partnership with US-based counterpart VORAGO Technologies as part of a collaboration intended to support a Phase I NASA program to procure a neuromorphic processor that meets spaceflight requirements.

In a statement to the market, BrainChip said VORAGO formally signed up to BrainChip’s Akida early access program, available to a select group of customers that require early access to the Akida device, evaluation boards and dedicated support.

The Akida device is an advanced neural networking processor, which BrainChip claims “brings artificial intelligence to the edge” in a novel way that current technologies cannot. According to the tech company, the solution is high-performance, small, ultra-low power and enables a wide array of edge capabilities that include continuous learning and inference.

Akida is designed to provide a complete ultra-low power and fast AI edge network for vision, audio, olfactory and smart transducer applications. The reduction in system latency provides faster response and a more power-efficient system that can reduce the large carbon footprint typically created by power-hungry data centres.

In addition to providing excellent operability within standard industries, the Akida neuromorphic processor is considered well suited to spaceflight and other aerospace applications, given its energy efficiency properties.

The device is a complete neural processor and does not require an external central processing unit (CPU), memory or Deep Learning Accelerator (DLA). The severe reduction in the number of components, size and power consumption are paramount concerns for spaceflight missions – and NASA, the world’s leading space agency.

In February this year, BrainChip received an EAR99 classification for its Akida neuromorphic system-on-chip (NSoC) and software development environment (ADE) from the United States government.

“We are both excited and proud to participate in this Phase I program with VORAGO Technologies and support NASA’s desire to leverage neuromorphic computing in spaceflight applications,” BrainChip chief executive officer Louis DiNardo said.

“The combination of benefits from the Akida neuromorphic processor and a radiation-hardened process brings significant new capabilities to spaceflight and aerospace applications,” he added.

Onwards and upwards

The rationale behind the collaboration is to integrate VORAGO’s expertise in hardening semiconductor components.

VORAGO is a private technology company based in Austin, Texas with more than 15 years of experience in providing radiation-hardened and extreme-temperature solutions for the hi-reliability marketplace. It was also recently recognised as one of Inc 5000’s fastest-growing private companies in the US.

The company’s patented HARDSIL technology uses cost-effective, high-volume manufacturing to harden commercially designed semiconductor components and prepare them for extreme environments, while creating several other solutions throughout aerospace, defence and industrial applications.

Without disclosing any specific commercial details underpinning the agreement, BrainChip said the early access program agreement included “payments that are intended to offset its expenses to support partner needs”.

VORAGO chief executive officer Bernd Lienhard said his company was “thrilled and honoured” to partner with BrainChip to harness the radiation hardening capabilities of its patented HARDSIL technology for the Phase I program with NASA.

“Our ongoing mission of creating components with increased availability and unmatched solutions in aerospace and defence applications, paired with the Akida neuromorphic processor, will create unprecedented standards moving forward in the industry,” he added.

Financial update

In other news, BrainChip recently posted its half-year results for the past financial year. The company reported a net loss of $6.85 million and said revenues decreased 80% to $13,397. Meanwhile, research and development expenses rose 81% to $3.5 million.

Regarding its cash position at the end of the half-year, BrainChip said it has consolidated net assets of $5.89 million, down from $9 million in December 2019.