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DesignStart FAQ

Answers to frequently asked questions about DesignStart.

About Arm Design Start

Q: What is DesignStart?

DesignStart is a simplified way to access Arm IP: industry-proven Arm Cortex-M processors, subsystems, system IP and Artisan physical IP for a $0 upfront license fee. Many products are available in free evaluation format.

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Q: What products can I access?

Many products can be accessed through DesignStart:

  • Cortex-M0 and Cortex-M3 processors and subsystems: available for free evaluation with DesignStart Eval and for commercial development with DesignStart Pro.
  • Artisan Physical IP library: Logic IP, Standard Cell, Embedded Memory Compilers, Interface IP and POP IP – many available in both the free front-end view and the complete view.

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Q: What is DesignStart Eval?

DesignStart Eval enables completely free access to fixed-configuration Cortex-M0 and Cortex-M3 processors and full subsystem RTL for evaluation, prototype, teaching, and research. Available to all*, the packages can be downloaded instantly, requiring only a simple click-through agreement.

* subject to an export control check required by law.

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Q: What is DesignStartPro?

DesignStart Pro enables access to the full Cortex-M0, Cortex-M3 and subsystem RTL. Available to companies for commercial use with a no-risk, $0 license fee and success-based royalty model. Access to the IP can be requested online, requiring the signing of a simplified license agreement. 

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Q: What is DesignStart Pro Academic?

DesignStart Pro Academic is built specifically for academic institutions. It enables free access to the to the full Cortex-M0 and Cortex-M3 processors and subsystem RTL for research purposes, and allows the manufacture of up to 1,000 test chips. Access to the IP can be requested online, requiring only a simple click-through agreement.

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Q: What can I do with DesignStart Pro Academic?

When you register for DesignStart Pro Academic, you get access to the fully configurable (full RTL) Cortex-M0 or Cortex-M3 processors and their subsystems. Key aspects of the license are highlighted below:

  • The IP is for use by academics and for academic research only, including for generating/using course and teaching materials.
  • You may only use the IP to design and manufacture products that contain the Arm processor downloaded.
  • You may manufacture and test up to 1,000 chips.
  • You may use third parties to manufacture, package and test your integrated circuits. Note that some Arm products may include constraints on which third parties you can use.
  • You may use the IP in FPGA development boards for internal use of evaluating your design or developing software applications.
  • You may not modify the IP (other than as set out in the license).
  • You may not distribute the IP, your designs or manufactured integrated circuits to third parties.
  • The results you generate may contain confidential information of Arm and hence you shall not disclose such information without Arm’s consent.
  • By downloading and using the materials you are making a representation to Arm that you are an academic and that you accept the terms of the agreement, both personally and on behalf of the academic institution you represent.
  • The term of the agreement is 3 years.

Please note that the above is not the license to Arm IP; you should read the full terms of the license before agreeing to it!

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Q: Can I access Physical IP through DesignStart?

Thousands of Artisan Physical IP, supported by 18 foundry partners, are available on DesignStart. Access to the IP can be requested online; depending on whether the requested IP is a front-end view or a complete view, access time will vary and may require the signature of a license agreement with the foundry.

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Q: What contract do I need to sign?

The contract required to access the IP depends on what version of the products you apply for:

  • DesignStart Eval, and DesignStart Pro Academic require only a simple click-through agreement. No signature is required.
  • DesignStart Pro can be accessed after the signature of a license agreement by a representative of your company with the authority to sign such a contract.
  • Physical IP: depending on whether the requested IP is a front-end view or a complete view, the signature of a license agreement with the foundry may be required.

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Q: What is the difference between DesignStart Eval and DesignStart Pro?

DesignStart Eval and DesignStart Pro differ in both the product you will be able to access, the required agreement, and the authorized use:

  • With DesignStart Eval, you will access a fixed-configuration CPU IP and full subsystem RTL for evaluation, prototype, teaching, and research. It is optimized for design, simulation and prototyping on an FPGA.
  • With DesignStart Pro, you will access the full CPU IP and subsystem RTL for the development and manufacturing of commercial SoCs.

See Q: What contract do I need to sign for more information on the required agreement for each version.

For more information on the technical differences between DesignStart Eval or DesignStart Pro please read this short presentation.

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Q: What is the difference between DesignStart Pro and DesignStart Pro Academic?

DesignStart Pro and DesignStart Pro Academic both provide access to the full CPU IP and subsystem RTL, but are intended for different uses:

  • DesignStart Pro is designed for companies developing and manufacturing commercial SoCs.
  • DesignStart Pro Academic is freely available to academic institutions for developing and manufacturing SoCs for research purposes.

Check Q: What contract do I need to sign for more information on the required agreement for each version.

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Q: I am a private individual/student: can I access DesignStart Pro and DesignStart Pro Academic?

Private individuals and students can only access DesignStart Eval. DesignStart Pro is reserved for commercial organizations, and DesignStart Pro Academic is reserved for universities and academic institutions.

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Registration and login

Q: How do I login to DesignStart Pro?

  1. Go to the DesignStart login page: https://developer.arm.com/products/designstart/designstart-login and click Login to DesignStart Pro.

  2. At the Arm sign in page, enter your email address and password and click Sign In.

    Arm login

    If you have forgotten your password, click the Reset it here link and follow the on-screen instructions.

    Once successfully logged in, the DesignStart portal is displayed:


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Q: I tried to download DesignStart Eval, but a screen appeared telling me that additional checks were needed. What should I do next?

We are required by law to perform an export control check on the individual. Sometimes, we are required to perform some additional checks and if this happens, access to the IP will be a delayed while we carry out these checks. We will get in touch with you within few days to suggest the next appropriate actions.

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Software tools and Cortex-M3 Cycle Model



Q: I have not received or am having issues with my Keil MDK or Cortex-M3 Cycle Model key(s). What should I do?

If you are having issues in receiving or activating keys, please email designstart@arm.com. Please provide your contact information and a description of the issue you are experiencing, and we will be in contact to provide assistance.

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Q: How do I download and activate Keil MDK?

Click Download, then, when prompted, enter your unique Product Serial Number (PSN) you received by email.

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Q: Why should I use the Cortex-M3 Cycle Model over the fixed-configuration Cortex-M3 RTL?

Cortex-M3 Cycle Model is a 100% cycle accurate simulation of the Cortex-M3 and runs 2-5x faster than RTL in an RTL simulation environment. The Cortex-M3 Cycle Model also provides enhanced visibility by producing a Tarmac trace file with timestamps of all instruction and major events that occurred during the simulation.

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Support and Services

Q: Where can I ask support questions?

Arm has a thriving community of SoC designers and developers. Get involved today – join the DesignStart Community, where you can access a wealth of documentation, blogs, whitepapers and videos. Participate in the discussion forum – share successes, ideas and challenges, and get the latest news about custom SoC design.

For dedicated support, please check Q: Is dedicated support available for DesignStart?

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Q: Is dedicated support available for DesignStart?

Technical support for companies creating commercial silicon using DesignStart Pro is available for a fee, with access to our team of highly-qualified Arm experts 24 hours a day.

Learn more about Arm Support and Training, and contact us for a quote.

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Q: What is an Arm Approved design partner?

Arm Approved partners are our network of design houses that can provide expert support – ranging from specification assistance to chip tape-out and at-scale production. Every Arm Approved partner has been through a robust audit process that allows us to recommend them to you in their specific field. Please click here to learn more or email DesignServices@arm.com to send a question to our Design Services team.

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Q: What are the benefits of an RTL Design Review?

For companies creating commercial silicon in-house, RTL review helps verify your SoC design and reduce risks before tape out. The review can help to identify any issues with signal connectivity, memory system arrangement, system performance, debug system, and clock and power domains.

The outcome of the review is a detailed report that you will receive within two weeks of the review taking place. Please visit www.arm.com/support/design-reviews or contact us.

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