The UK government is today announcing a new £1bn strategy to boost the country’s “global strengths in semiconductors”.
The strategy covers the next 20 years and investment will be made over the next decade into semiconductor infrastructure, security and research and development. £200m will be invested between 2023 and 2025.
Semiconductor chips are an essential component for almost every electronic device, from phones to power stations, but also underpin future technologies such as AI and quantum computing.
A splintered production chain can expose the chips — and global industries — to supply chain issues and therefore chip shortages.
The National Semiconductor Strategy is the latest bid from the UK to become a "science and technology superpower". But it pales in comparison to other national efforts — such as the US’s CHIPS and Science Act, which includes $52bn to support semiconductor manufacturing, and the EU's €43bn European Chips Act, which is aiming to increase production capacity to 20% of the global market by 2030. China also has a $143bn chip package.
What does it mean for UK startups?
The UK is home to 78 semiconductor startups, according to Dealroom. The companies specialise in compound semiconductors (an alternative to those made of silicon) and span everything from quantum to laser technology.
Oxford and Cambridge are key hubs, along with south Wales. In 2021, Silicon Catalyst, the world’s only semiconductor incubator, launched an accelerator in the UK.
The new strategy is aiming to build on the UK’s strengths, including the R&D and design of compound semiconductors, and tackle barriers to innovation, such as exploring how to make specialist software tools more available for startups.
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A specialist incubator pilot focusing on removing the obstacles that hold semiconductor startups from growth is also launching today — providing access to technical resources, as well as coaching and networking.
Along with the findings of research commissioned by the newly formed Department for Science, Innovation and Technology, more details about the strategy and scheme will be announced in the autumn.