Adapting to post-Brexit supply chains
A Wales-based compound semiconductor business that has generated innovation projects worth over £80 million since it was formed six years ago is building a stronger future with Europe.
The Compound Semiconductor Centre (CSC) - a joint venture between leading Cardiff-based semiconductor materials supplier IQE and Cardiff University – is developing its Intellectual Property portfolio to take advantage of post-BREXIT opportunities in European supply chains and research partnerships.
Professor Wyn Meredith, Director of CSC, said a range of collaborations are in place built around greater integration with clusters of European semiconductor expertise.
“We’re developing new relationships which align CSC with the EU vision to more than double European domestic semiconductor component manufacturing to >20% of global demand by 2030, specialising in clear areas of strength such as advanced Compound Semiconductors.
“For example, we have recently secured participation a new project called PowerElec, funded through the EMPIR programme – which aims to develop novel characterisation techniques for new semiconductor power electronics solutions with key European semiconductor industry partners such as Nexperia, Infineon and Aixtron, in collaboration with the UK’s National Physical Laboratories.
“Another example is CSC’s role in enabling a new European supply chain for 5G communication technology, using novel free space optical links co-developed with a new consortium of innovative SMEs based in The Netherlands.”
The EU has recognised that semiconductors are at the core of the global race that underpins many critical technology trends. In September 2021, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced an intent for a new ‘European Chips Act’ to create a state-of-the-art European semiconductor ecosystem. The Act will encompass a European Semiconductor Research Strategy, a collective plan to enhance European production capacity, and a framework for international cooperation and partnership, facilitated via a new dedicated European Semiconductor Fund.
Prof. Meredith added: “The UK Government has already made strategic decisions to support increased innovation in areas that are considered critical to future economic growth, such as resilient communications, electric vehicle technology and more efficient electronics to drive NetZero.
“New high-performance semiconductors will have a profound impact on reducing power consumption, increasing battery life and enabling new functionality in everyday items such as smart phones, tablets and laptops, and enabling longer range electric vehicles and ubiquitous high-speed broadband.
“To date, there is no clear UK strategy that mirrors the large-scale actions and investment intent seen in Europe, US and Asia. But its clear that the UK must build on its strengths in emergent semiconductor technology including research excellence, design, materials and device manufacturing, and we should use every opportunity to engage with our European partners to amplify and leverage such advantages.
“CSC operates at the heart of a rapidly growing Cluster of advanced semiconductor technology in South Wales, which employs >2000 research, engineering and manufacturing staff, with ~£500M of export output per annum. We share the EU ambition for growth, and have a straightforward aim of doubling headcount, R+D activity and industrial output beyond 2025. We are building strong credentials to emerge as Europe’s 5th Semiconductor Cluster to accompany Leuven, Dresden, Eindhoven and Grenoble, but the first Cluster globally that is dedicated to Compound (ie non-Silicon) Semiconductors.”
The Compound Semiconductor Centre Limited was founded in July 2015 as a 50:50 joint venture between Cardiff University (CU) and IQE PLC, with an initial investment of £24m from the shareholders. CSC’s mission is to accelerate commercialisation of Compound Semiconductor research to enable new applications. The Compound Semiconductor Centre was instrumental in the CSconnected cluster bid to help Wales win £25m funding from UKRI’s ‘Strength in Places Fund, Wave 1’ - one of only 7 awards across the UK in 2020.
CSconnected represents the world's first compound semiconductor community based in and around South Wales in the UK. The CSconnected community integrates world-class research excellence, innovation and prototyping facilities with a unique regional supply chain in compound semiconductor manufacturing. In 2020, CSconnected received government funding provided through UK Research and Innovation’s flagship Strength in Places Fund (SIPF). CSconnected SIPF is a 55-month project with a total value of £43 million, supported by £25 million of government funding provided through UK Research and Innovation’s flagship Strength in Places Fund.