World-first compound semiconductor cluster moves step closer

Posted on 29 Oct 2015 by Jonny Williamson

A partnership between IQE and Cardiff University to create the world’s first Compound Semiconductor technology cluster has the potential to create 5,000 new jobs.

IQE plc is a leading global supplier of advanced semiconductor wafers.
IQE plc is a leading global supplier of advanced semiconductor wafers.

The cluster is based on a joint venture between IQE plc – a leading global supplier of advanced semiconductor wafers – and Cardiff University, and aims to build a centre of excellence that represents a key milestone for the development and commercialisation of next generation Compound Semiconductor (CS) technologies.

Due to be launched at events in Westminster and Cardiff next month, the Compound Semiconductor Centre (CSC) is hoped to bring industry and academia together towards a shared vision to create a UK-based cluster for next-generation semiconductor technologies.

Four significant clusters based around silicon technologies already exist in Europe, but CSC – based in Cardiff – will be the first centre to build on the exciting potential of compound semiconductors.

These are vital components used in many of today’s high-tech applications, including communications networks and devices such as smartphones and tablets.

With high performance capabilities, coupled with energy efficiency and photonic properties, CS’s are hailed as a vital enabling technology for increased productivity and the key economic growth drivers identified in the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 economic growth strategy, aimed at the reindustrialisation of the EU.

The planned CS cluster has the potential to create up to 5,000 jobs within the region over the next five years, and would represent a central base of operations for the UK (and wider EU regions) efforts to reclaim high value technology manufacturing from competitors in East Asia.

Chief Executive of IQE, Dr Drew Nelson
Dr Drew Nelson, Chief Executive, IQE.

Chief Executive of IQE, Dr Drew Nelson commented: “Semiconductors are the unsung heroes of our modern world.

“Most people don’t realise that when they’re accessing the internet on their smartphone, the communications networks and mobile phone technology they are using just would not possible without compound semiconductors.

“What’s more, it’s even less likely they’ll know that much of this technology is developed and manufactured in Wales.

Nelson continued: “But technology evolves at a rapid pace.

“One of the big problems in the UK today in terms of advanced technologies is that a great deal of investment has gone into early stage research that so often goes on to be developed elsewhere.

“We frequently fail to take the steps needed to commercialise the research and development activities through innovation and manufacturing.

“This is why we are looking to create the world’s first compound semiconductor cluster, and having Cardiff University and the UK academic infrastructure in place creates a very strong basis to enable this cluster to be formed.”

The CSC is jointly owned and jointly controlled by Cardiff University and IQE plc.

To date, Cardiff University has contributed £12m in capital investment to the venture, with IQE committing hardware, buildings and infrastructure, as well as licensing certain intellectual property to the CSC.