£22m for semiconductor centres in Bristol and Southampton 

Two new ‘Innovation and Knowledge Centres’ each get £11m to develop silicon photonics and compound semiconductors 

A semiconductor chip is a cheap, efficient and reliable component in almost all electrical devices, ranging from your mobile to phone to high-end medical tech. These chips will also be key to the tech of tomorrow such as AI and quantum, and to our efforts to reach net zero. More than 1tn (1,000,000,000,000) semiconductors are now manufactured each year.

Better, more efficient semiconductors would obviously have a huge impact on all our lives. 

pink green and blue square pattern

Photo by Laura Ockel

The UK government is keen to support this kind of development, as outlined in its £1bn National Semiconductor Strategy. The newly announced UKRI funding is intended to ensure that two sites can convert scientific findings into business realities. Researchers will have access to the state-of-the-art prototyping tech needed to test complex designs. Early-stage and spin-out companies will be nurtured with training, workshops and industry contacts to prepare them for the moment their products are market ready.  

One of the sites to receive £11m is the REWIRE facility based at the University of Bristol. It will support chip companies across the south west and Wales to advance high-voltage electronic devices with cutting-edge compound semiconductors. The aim is to support wider ambitions to achieve net zero. 

The other site in receipt of this new funding is the ‘Cornerstone’ Information and Knowledge Centre in Southampton. This will build on the University of Southampton’s already established specialty in so-called ‘silicon photonics’. This emerging area of research in semiconductors uses light instead of electricity to communicate information. Chips using this technology are much quicker than standard semiconductors. 

What’s more, a further £4.8m is being provided to 11 semiconductor skills projects across the country, from school level, through to university and beyond. The aim is to raise awareness of the semiconductor industry and address key gaps in the UK workforce.  

Saqib Bhatti, Minister for Tech and the Digital Economy, says: ‘This investment marks a crucial step in advancing our ambitions for the semiconductor industry, with these centres helping bring new technologies to market in areas like net zero and AI, rooting them right here in the UK. 

‘Just nine months into delivering on the National Semiconductor Strategy, we’re already making rapid progress towards our goals. This isn’t just about fostering growth and creating high-skilled jobs, it’s about positioning the UK as a hub of global innovation, setting the stage for breakthroughs that have worldwide impact.’ 

Professor Graham Reed, the world-leading silicon photonics researcher who will lead the Cornerstone facility, adds: ‘The Cornerstone IKC will unite leading UK entrepreneurs and researchers, together with a network of support to improve the commercialisation of semiconductors and deliver a step-change in the silicon photonics industry.’ 

In related news:

Government’s priorities for tech in 2024 

AI battery design uses 70% less lithium

£1.5m for digital factory hub to aid manufacturing in Wales


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