How Wales is Becoming a World Leader in Semiconductors

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UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) recently announced a massive £43 million investment to the Compound Semiconductor cluster based in South Wales.

The investment is part of the flagship Strength in Places Fund but how will this ambitious project boost economic growth and position the region as a world technology leader?

It is hard to think of electronic products that don’t rely on smarter and more powerful materials in the form of compound semiconductor as the demand for higher performance is ever increasing. One way to meet customer demand for faster, reliable technology products is through collaboration where the benefits are even greater when whole ecosystems come together to break down the barriers created by geography.

For more than 30 years, South Wales has been home to a growing number of academic and business organisations delivering end-to-end solutions to global supply chains, making it the world’s first compound semiconductor cluster.

Activities within the CSconnected cluster have expanded in recent years, with significant milestones achieved such as the formation of the Compound Semiconductor Centre, a joint venture between IQE and Cardiff University, to fill the gap between academic research and commercial production of the epitaxial wafers; the investment from Cardiff University in the Institute for Compound Semiconductors which focuses on early stage R&D; and the establishment of the UK Government funded Compound Semiconductor Applications Catapult. More crucial additions to the region’s expertise came in the form of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) funded Compound Semiconductor Hub, led by Cardiff University and the complementary foundation of the Centre for Integrative Semiconductor Manufacturing (CISM) at Swansea University.

The most recent addition to the region’s expertise came in the form of the CSconnected Strength in Places project funded by UKRI. The successful £43m CSconnected bid is designed to support investment in research, development and innovation and drive local economic growth by building on key regional strengths.

CSconnected Strength in Places provides a unique opportunity to align world-class academic research like Cardiff and Swansea Universities, prototyping facilities like the CSA Catapult and the Compound Semiconductor Centre and core supply elements such as capital equipment and device packaging based in the region. Led by Cardiff University, the 55-month project will accelerate Wales’ unique capability to drive tomorrow’s applications by focusing on four key collaborative research and development (CRD) programmes, namely: next generation optical communications and sensing; large Scale GaAs-based wafer manufacturing; novel and efficient CS Wafer Fabrication Tools; and Advanced processes for 5G and autonomous and electric transport systems.

In addition CSconnected Limited, has been formed as a Research and Technology Organisation (RTO) which will support and promote the cluster beyond the 55-month Strength in Places programme, ensuring that Wales remains a leading technology nation and that the cluster is sustainable and continues to grow long into the twenty first century.

Working collaboratively, the CSconnected teams aim to bring high value-add manufacturing back to UK and create significant jobs growth over the coming years amongst existing, indiginous and new organisations that will be attracted to the region through the cluster’s activities and reputation. With significant milestones achieved and more than £600 million in investments secured from public and private sectors, The CSconnected cluster is well positioned to put the region at the forefront of new and emerging technologies.