Kevin Crofton appointed chairman of UK's Compound Semiconductor Applications Catapult

SPTS president Kevin Crofton has been appointed the chairman of the Compound Semiconductor Applications Catapult (based in South Wales), which will be the 11th Catapult to be established by UK Government agency Innovate UK. The Catapults comprise a network of centers where UK businesses, scientists and engineers work side by side on late-stage R&D, with the aim of transforming high-potential ideas in specific areas into new products and services, helping to drive future economic growth. The UK national Compound Semiconductor Applications Catapult was announced in early 2016, backed by government funding of £50m (£10m per year up to 2020-21) and spearheaded by epiwafer foundry and substrate maker IQE plc of Cardiff, Wales, UK and Cardiff University.

Crofton is corporate VP of Orbotech Inc (which provides PCB and FPD inspection and repair equipment for the packaging sector) and president of SPTS Technologies Ltd of Newport, Wales, UK, an Orbotech company that manufactures etch, physical vapor deposition (PVD) and chemical vapor deposition (CVD) and thermal wafer processing solutions for the MEMS, advanced packaging, LED, high-speed RF on GaAs, and power management device markets). Crofton is also a member of the board of directors of global industry association Semiconductor Equipment and Materials International (SEMI), and is board chair of the governing council of the MEMS Industry Group, as well as participating and presenting at SEMI, MEMS and 3D-IC/TSV forums.

Dr Wyn Meredith, Director of Compound Semiconductor Centre, says: “Kevin Crofton’s appointment is very timely. He brings a wealth of commercial development experience to the Catapult just as we are beginning to see the early formation of a cluster of companies with the power to drive the development of 21st century technologies. Our ambition is to bring the centre of gravity for this cutting-edge technology from South California to South Wales.”

It is reckoned that Crofton's 25 years of experience in the semiconductor capital equipment sector (including executive roles in the USA and UK) and his insight in the rapidly growing compound semiconductor market will be invaluable in establishing the Catapult within the compound semiconductor cluster in South Wales.

"Kevin's experience and expertise will spearhead the development of the new Catapult, and ensure we are maximising the business opportunities from the important compound semiconductors market," comments Innovate UK's chief executive Ruth McKernan.

The global market for compound semiconductors is forecast to rise to £75-125bn by 2025, according to data from BCC Research and MarketsAndMarkets. It is reckoned that, due to its research base in this field (which has led to the creation of many companies along the value chain), the UK has the potential to take advantage of this market opportunity. "The Government's investment in the Compound Semiconductor Application Catapult (CSAC) is testament to our track record as a leader in advanced electronics – a strength that we will build on through our Industrial Strategy to ensure that the UK remains at the forefront of innovation," states the UK's Universities and Science Minister Jo Johnson. "The appointment of Kevin Crofton as chair and his wealth of industry experience will help drive this and continue the Catapult's vital role in developing new technologies," he adds.

"Much of the advance technology powering our mobile phones and other devices is being pioneered right here in Wales," says Secretary of State for Wales, Alun Cairns. "We have a highly skilled workforce here in Wales and innovations like the catapult will lead to the creation of high-skilled and high-paid jobs," he adds. "This is the first Catapult to be located in Wales," notes Wales' Skills and Science Minister, Julie James. "The Compound Semiconductor Applications Catapult is a key pillar in the development of the world's first compound semiconductor cluster, which recognizes the industrial strength around the M4 corridor and the economic impact that this technology will bring," he adds.

"We expect the Catapult to bridge some of the primary research, development and test challenges that exist in the UK compound semiconductor sector," says Crofton. "We expect to help to accelerate innovation among existing companies and to aid spin-out companies in their success."