Why it matters: For startups, the current economic climate poses additional challenges on top of the already high research and development costs. ARM's Flexible Access for Startups is the company's way to encourage these projects to continue by giving them free access to 75 percent of its chip portfolio.

ARM-based hardware is eating the world and is slowly permeating the PC desktop and server markets in the process. Hardware startups, however, are stuck between a rock and a hard place, and are forced to adapt by optimizing their operational and R&D costs to keep the lights on.

ARM announced this week it'll give these early-stage companies zero-cost access to a huge chunk of its IP portfolio, including some of its most widely used chip designs that it already licenses to tech giants like Qualcomm, Samsung, and Apple.

The move is an extension of the company's existing Flexible Access program, and will give startups and incubators a way to design and prototype using ARM solutions like Cortex A, R, and M CPU families, Mali GPUs, and image signal processors with the added benefit of global support, development tools, and extensive training resources.

To qualify for the program, a company needs to have at most, $5 million in funding. The goal is to help lower the financial risk associated with the monumental task of bringing a chip to market, shaving several months from the time it usually takes to make that happen. To that end, ARM is partnering with Silicon Catalyst, which is a specialist incubator that focuses on silicon startups.

According to a report from Semico Research, there's been a tenfold increase in funding for hardware startups between 2016 and 2019, with $1.3 billion being spent in the last five years for new ambitious projects in areas like supercomputers, autonomous cars, AI, wireless, and IoT.

Ultimately, this is a smart move that will attract a lot of small companies to embrace ARM in their quest for hardware innovation.

Even large companies like Apple are working on moving as much of their hardware as possible to ARM-based architectures that offer them more control over the finished product. That transition has been a long time in the making, and Apple is expected to unveil its first ARM-based Macs next year.