South Wales could soon be the next Silicon Valley if the team behind one of the most ambitious projects of its kind in the world today have their way.
The project will see dozens of existing manufacturers, technology developers, researchers and start-ups come together to create an end-to-end supply chain that will literally drive not just tomorrow’s smart transport development, but the technology used to perform vital healthcare, communications, education and security.
As well as enabling Wales to take its rightful place in global technology research, design, development, manufacturing and integration, the project’s vision will see the creation of thousands of high value jobs and greater recognition for the importance of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) within the education system.
At the heart of this ambitious project is the Compound Semiconductor Centre (CSC), a joint venture set up between leading global supplier of advanced semiconductor wafers, IQE and Cardiff University.
The CSC opened its doors last August in St. Mellons, Cardiff.
Dr Wyn Meredith, Director of the CSC, explains:
“South Wales has been active in the research and development of compound semiconductors i.e. the technology that enables devices like smartphones and sensors, for a long time.
“However, to create an ecosystem that had the critical mass and infrastructure for this type of technology development to progress from concept right through to commercial products needed substantial investment and impetus.”
Having secured financial backing from Welsh Government, CSC is now looking to act as a centre of excellence for the region and aims to compliment the priorities set by the UK government funded Compound Semiconductor Applications Catapult announced in January by Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne.
Chris Meadows, Head of Open Innovation at IQE, added:
“Unlocking the possibilities brought about by bringing together all those companies involved in the development and design of new products here in Wales is incredibly ambitious, but also a real game changer for the region and the country.
“The creation of the CSC is a fundamental step on this journey and will act partly as an incubator, but also as the hub for many of IQE’s current supply chain customers.”
IQE plc, which has its global headquarters in St. Mellons, Cardiff, is behind the technology that can be found in most mobile devices on the world market today.
Recognised for a number of export awards in recent years, Mr Meadows says that the accolades although fantastic are rather ironic given that Welsh companies manufacturing products using wafers are often likely importing those same wafers exported to Asia from IQE.
The CSC aims to address this challenge to position Wales as a centre of knowledge-based, high-value, high technology manufacturing.
Working closely with the newly formed Institute for Compound Semiconductors which will operate from Cardiff University’s new Maindy campus, the CSC will provide an “innovation bridge” to help take exciting new research concepts through to commercial reality.
The recently announced Catapult adds an extra dimension that will further establish the region as a centre of technological excellence by providing access to new semiconductor device technologies by providing facilities and support for new and emerging applications that will be enabled by compound semiconductors.
The CSC is jointly owned and controlled by Cardiff University and IQE plc.
Cardiff University has contributed £12 million in capital investment to the venture to date, with IQE committing hardware, buildings, infrastructure as well as licensing certain intellectual property.
The CSC is currently mapping those companies that are designing and developing technologies based on compound semiconductors in Wales and are calling on those companies that think they might benefit from closer collaboration to get in touch.
The project will also look to help address the skills gap that exists for engineers and research and technology graduates by inspiring the next generation to get excited about STEM.