The vision to establish the South Wales region in the UK as what is reckoned to be the first Compound Semiconductor Cluster is said to be gaining traction with recent research, development and innovation wins by businesses and academic institutions based in the region.
As well as already having made a major impact in enabling high-speed communications and in every smartphone and Internet-enabled communications device, compound semiconductor technology is also used in a wide range of sensor devices ranging from proximity sensing and laser focusing deployed in smartphones and cameras, to 3D sensing, optical and RF communications, healthcare technologies, aerospace and security applications through to autonomous vehicles. Compound semiconductors are central to a host of next-generation technologies that are currently under development.
Recent awards announced by government agency Innovate UK demonstrate the high level of technology activities in the region, with South Wales-based organizations representing the highest proportion of compound semiconductor-related awards across the UK.
The volume of compound semiconductor-related contract wins across the region indicates that the vision to create the first Compound Semiconductor Cluster is rapidly gaining widespread recognition, it is reckoned. “We are delighted with the breadth of projects supported by Innovate UK, clearly demonstrating that the vision to create the world’s first compound semiconductor cluster in Wales is now transitioning to the delivery of tangible innovation activities and supply chain co-operation,” says Dr Wyn Meredith, director of the Compound Semiconductor Centre in Cardiff, a joint venture between Cardiff-based epiwafer foundry and substrate maker IQE plc and Cardiff University.
“Building Wales’ already impressive research and development capabilities are key priorities for the Welsh Government and it is excellent news that so many Welsh organizations have been successful in securing funding for research and innovation in this key enabling technology,” comments Julie James. Skills and Science Minister. “Our on-going investment in further developing the cluster and supporting truly transformative projects with Innovate UK is paying dividends and we are beginning to see the economic benefits from this support,” he adds.
“It’s fantastic to see so many innovative projects arising from the compound semiconductor cluster in South Wales,” says Paul Mason, director of emerging and enabling technologies at Innovate UK. “The high success rate, in some very competitive competitions, highlights the strength of the cutting-edge research and technology within the cluster, and the collaborative approach between academia and industry.”
Branded as CS Connected, the Compound Semiconductor Cluster represents organizations that are directly associated with research, development, innovation and manufacturing of compound semiconductor-related technologies as well as organizations along the supply chains whose products and services are enabled by compound semiconductors. The UK, and Wales in particular, is home to a growing number of organizations and businesses that are active in this industry sector.
In 2015, Cardiff University announced an investment of around £75m in the Institute for Compound Semiconductors (ICS) as part of its new £300m Innovation Campus. This was quickly followed by the creation of the £24m joint venture between IQE plc and Cardiff University to form the Compound Semiconductor Centre (CSC) for the development and prototyping of compound semiconductor materials. Then came the announcement that the UK Government was to invest £50m in the first Catapult Centre in Wales dedicated to the development of compound semiconductor applications. In 2016, the UK’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) announced a £10m investment in a Compound Semiconductor Hub, based at Cardiff University.