Standard-cell design, technology choices, and place and route (P&R) efficiency are deeply interrelated in CMOS technology nodes below 10 nm, where lower number of tracks cells and higher pin densities pose increasingly challenging problems to the router in terms of congestion and pin accessibility. To evaluate and downselect the best solutions, a holistic design-technology co-optimization approach leveraging state-of-the-art P&R tools is thus necessary. We adopt such an approach using the imec N7 technology platform, with contacted poly pitch of 42 nm and tightest metal pitch of 32 nm, by comparing post P&R area of an IP block for different standard cell configurations, technology options, and cell height. Keeping the technology node and the set of ground rules unchanged, we demonstrate that a careful combination of these solutions can enable area gains of up to 50%, comparable with the area benefits of migrating to another node. We further demonstrate that these area benefits can be achieved at isoperformance with
reduced power. As at the end of the CMOS roadmap, conventional scaling enacted through pitch reduction is made more and more challenging by constraints imposed by lithography limits, material resistivity, manufacturability, and ultimately wafer cost, the approach shown herein offers a valid, attractive, and low-cost alternative.