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Govt explores initiatives to boost British semiconductor industry

A new national institution could be established as part of plans to boost the infrastructure underpinning the UK’s industry through the government’s upcoming semiconductor strategy.

The strategy will aim to unlock the full potential of British microchip businesses, support jobs and skills to grow the UK’s domestic industry and ensure a reliably supply of semiconductors.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) is today commissioning a research project to look into the feasibility of new national initiatives to bring the nation’s industry together to tackle shared challenges and help businesses scale up.

It will look at whether better access to prototyping and manufacturing facilities for chip firms is needed to tackle barriers to innovation and grow the industry. It will also cover opportunities to make specialist software tools more available for start-ups and ways to develop cutting-edge packaging processes, the point in the supply chain where chips are prepared for use.

Semiconductors are materials which conduct electricity more than insulating substances like glass, but less than pure conductors, like copper, and can be altered to meet the electrical needs of a circuit or device. They are found in almost every electrical circuit powering device from phones and cars to ventilators and power stations.

The UK’s semiconductor industry has expanded rapidly over the last decade, with global revenue increasing by 95 per cent between 2012 and 2021. The UK has established a number of major industry strengths, including in chip design, research and compound semiconductors.

Digital Secretary Michelle Donelan said:

  • We rely on semiconductors – they are in everything from our smartphones, kitchen appliances, and cars all the way through to the supercomputers that support our weather reporting, energy sector and countless other areas of our economy.
  • In the UK we are leading the world in areas including design and research. We want to build on these successes and keep our semiconductor sector on the cutting edge.
  • This study will help us meet our ambition and could lead to a new national institution and greater research facilities.

The study will consider how to improve infrastructure in five key areas: industry coordination, silicon prototyping, open-access manufacturing for compound semiconductors, advanced packaging and intellectual property.

The results will inform how the government could deliver on some of the ambitions set out in the forthcoming semiconductor strategy, which will be published as soon as possible and is not dependent on the completion of the feasibility study.

The proposed initiative is one of many options under consideration and does not represent the full breadth of the strategy.

The study will set out the delivery model a national initiative could take to have the most positive impact on the industry, including whether or not the different infrastructure capabilities are centralised in one organisation.

CT Bureau

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