Semiconductor technology company IQE won the partnership award with Cardiff University. The pair set up the Compound Semiconductor Centre, which will develop and commercialise compound semiconductor technologies, building on work by Cardiff University’s Institute of Compound Semiconductors. In January 2016, the Chancellor, George Osborne, said the UK government would invest £10m a year over the next five years in a Catapult technology centre for compound semiconductor technology in Wales. IQE’s Camille Colombier talked to Insider.
Q: WHAT DOES YOUR PARTNERSHIP WITH CARDIFF UNIVERSITY AIM TO DO?
The aim is to provide a complete capability value chain from high-end, world-class research and development through product and process innovation to high-value, largescale manufacturing. The centre provides an essential pillar to span the so-called “valley of death” on the technology readiness level (TRL) scale. The centre will be Europe’s first prototyping facility, allowing businesses and academics to demonstrate new technologies based on compound semiconductor materials that will be production-ready, allowing rapid routes to market for entrepreneurs and technology leaders. The centre will also facilitate training and skills development to support the growing infrastructure around compound semiconductor-based technologies.
Q: WHAT STAGE IS THE PARTNERSHIP AT?
The partnership to create the world’s first compound semiconductor technology cluster was launched at events in Westminster and Cardiff in 2015. The opening of the centre brought industry and academia together towards a shared vision to create a UK-based cluster for next-generation semiconductor technologies. To date, Cardiff University has contributed £12m in capital investment to the venture, with IQE committing hardware, buildings, infrastructure as well as licensing certain intellectual property to the centre. The institute forms part of Cardiff University’s £300m investment in new research and innovation centres, and its potential is already recognised by the Welsh and UK governments, which who have invested more than £29m towards its creation. IQE and Cardiff University, along with the Welsh and UK governments, have been active in helping secure Wales’ first catapult centre for compound semiconductor applications.
Q: WHAT’S NEXT?
Collectively, the institute, centre and IQE’s compound semiconductor operation in Cardiff establish the core elements of a compound semiconductor ecosystem in Wales to bridge early stage research, product development, prototyping, and pilot production, through to high-volume manufacturing. The centre will provide a route to market for new and emerging technologies by concentrating on the higher technology readiness levels (TRLs) 4 to 6, building on research at TRL levels 1 to 3 developed by the institute. It aims to create a centre of excellence to develop and commercialise next-generation compound semiconductor technologies.
Q: WHAT’S THE COMMERCIAL POTENTIAL?
The establishment of this joint venture is a milestone towards the creation of a European compound semiconductor cluster centred in Wales, which is increasingly seen as a strategic enabler for the UK and European electronics industries. Compound semiconductors are a key enabling technology for the economic growth drivers identified in the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 economic growth strategy, aimed at the reindustrialisation of the EU. This clustering also enables the region to continue to attract, develop and retain worldclass talent from research, through industry placements, and graduate employment to apprenticeships. A feasibility study by Cardiff University has estimated that a compound semiconductor cluster could generate more than 5,000 high-value jobs in the Welsh economy over the next five years.
Q: HOW DO YOU MAKE AN ACADEMIC- BUSINESS PARTNERSHIP WORK EFFECTIVELY?
The teaming of IQE and Cardiff University is crucial to both sides: Cardiff University will now has a clear and effective route to commercialise the world class research and development (R&D) to be carried out at the institute, and will be able to attract significant corporate and other funding. IQE will be able to take the technologies developed there and the joint venture directly into mass production. Cardiff University particularly focuses on the academic research at the low TRLs, while IQE enables the route to commercialisation with a contribution through to the higher TRLs. Meanwhile, the centre brings IQE and Cardiff University together towards a shared vision to create a UK-based cluster for next-generation semiconductor technologies.
Article published on Insider February/March 2016