Welsh government announces £1.73m semiconductor technology funding

The Welsh Government has revealed that they will be financing a substantial £1.73m in funding to advance semiconductor process technologies significantly.

The sizeable funding has been awarded to the ASSET project, which comprises industry experts from Swansea University and their plethora of partners, all of whom will work collaboratively to push the boundaries of semiconductor process technologies, which have a wide range of potential applications.

Semiconductors are crucial components in an array of emerging and future technologies employed in autonomous vehicles, clean energy devices, future mobility, Artificial Intelligence (AI), advanced packaging, and biosensors and wearable sensors. Now, thanks to considerable funding, the ASSET project looks to push the boundaries of semiconductor technologies.

The ASSET project

Application Specific Semiconductor Etching Technology – ASSET – is an industrially driven, collaborative project of partners across South Wales, including SPTS Technologies, IQE, The Compound Semiconductor Centre (CSC), Biovici, BioMEMS, Swansea and Cardiff universities and Integrated Compound Semiconductors Ltd (Manchester).

The ASSET project is partly funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) under the Welsh Government’s SMART Expertise programme.

Enhancing semiconductor process technology

The industry-leading partners of the ASSET project provide advanced technologies for nearly all of the world’s smartphones. The project will devise new and emerging applications in automotive sensing, 6G, healthcare, and photonics by developing a range of semiconductor process technologies using compound semiconductors and next-generation materials.

The ASSET project also involves additional partners from the South Wales Compound Semiconductor Cluster, including CSconnected, smart sensors and networks producers UtterBerry, photonics company Wave Photonics, and the National Physical Laboratory (NPL), which is the UK’s national metrology institute.

Professor Owen Guy, head of chemistry at Swansea University and lead for the ASSET project, said: “The expanded ASSET project is a timely boost to the UK semiconductor industry, with exciting developments planned with several of our regional industry partners, and the opening of our £90m Centre for Integrative Semiconductor Materials (CISM) – a new state-of-the-art semiconductor facility at Swansea University – in 2022.”

Vaughan Gething, Welsh Government Economy Minister, commented: “We are immensely proud of the world-leading compound semiconductor ecosystem we helped foster here in Wales. It is a high potential network translating state-of-the-art research and innovation capabilities into world-class Welsh manufacturing for new and emerging global technology markets. This next generation technology shapes our lives today and will improve our experiences of tomorrow – from electric vehicles to face recognition in smartphones and space applications.

“The sector is of huge significance to Wales, providing high-value employment and a real magnet for foreign direct investment. It also underpins development in so many other industries, and we believe it can deliver against our Programme for Government by driving a stronger, greener economy and contributing to the net-zero decarbonisation challenge.

“I’m very proud of the Welsh Government’s track record on supporting businesses to innovate and introduce new products and services, to trade with the UK and the rest of the world, to improve our skills base and to ensure that Wales remains competitive in the fourth industrial age.”

Dr Matt Elwin, Operations Director for CISM and Dr Mike Jennings, Associate Professor in Electronic Engineering at Swansea, said: “The ASSET expansion links with our new ‘Driving the Electric Revolution (DER)’ Industrial Centres (IC) initiative to create a new sovereign supply chain for the UK in next-generation power electronics components for transport electrification. This funding, plus the £4.82m from the DER Industrialisation Centres programme, will help us deliver common goals for increased economic growth, developing clean and resilient supply chains in power electronics, machines and drives.”

Paul Rich, Executive Vice President of Product Engineering and Technology at SPTS Technologies, said: “The ASSET project gives the consortium the ability to work with the extensive fabrication supply chain in the region to further expand our capabilities and capitalise on new and exciting market opportunities.”

Wyn Meredith, from the Compound Semiconductor Centre, commented: “The South Wales semiconductor industry employs over 1,400 highly skilled people in the region and is set to expand rapidly over the next five years with the growth of 5G, AI and other mega-trend markets. ASSET will support these markets by developing a range of advanced semiconductor processes and expertise to overcome technical and industry challenges.”

Heba Bevan from UtterBerry said: “UtterBerry is proud to be working with Professor Owen Guy and his team at Swansea University on the project, to revolutionise chip manufacturing and to become one of the most advanced centres in the UK. We also look forward to the broader positive changes the team at UtterBerry will make to the area, including job creation, a more efficient transportation network, enhanced connectivity and automation in the clean energy sector.”

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