South Wales, once a national source of iron and coal, is today poised to become a global focus of semiconductor excellence and investment thanks to a consortium which includes the Compound Semiconductor Applications Catapult.
The area was at one time the centre of the industrial revolution but changing times saw those heavy industries falter. Now, however, South Wales is looking towards a new future, thanks to a multi-million pound investment awarded through UK Research and Innovation’s flagship Strength in Places Fund.
The investment will help South Wales become home to a world-leading cluster of excellence in compound semiconductor technologies, bringing economic investment and high quality jobs to the area.
It will mean South Wales can offer world-class support to businesses developing technologies across new areas such as 5G and electric vehicles, while also supporting the development of new skills, creating a future workforce in support of these emerging markets.
What is a compound semiconductor? Almost every electrical device on the planet, from stereos to spacecraft, uses chips made from silicon.
Compound semiconductor chips combine two or more elements from the periodic table to form a compound. For example, silicon (Si) and carbon (C) form silicon-carbide (SiC).
These ‘compound semiconductors’ are more complex to manufacture, but they can outperform silicon, and industries like clean energy, electric transportation and digital communications are increasingly looking towards them to bring new, important applications to life.
The South Wales cluster, called the CS Connected initiative, integrates research excellence with the regional supply chains in advanced semiconductor manufacturing.
CS Connected will create a talent pipeline that produces highly skilled, well-paid jobs, bringing social and economic benefits to South Wales.
The Catapult’s role is to enable access to expertise and infrastructure, providing advanced test, evaluation and life testing services for design and process feedback to the consortium.
According to analysts, global markets for compound semiconductors are projected to reach US$125 billion by 2025, with other analysts estimating the global market for compound semiconductors to grow to more than $300 billion come 2030; three times the growth rate of silicon. The CS Connected initiative ensures the UK leads the world in the design and manufacturing of compound semiconductor wafers.
Compound Semiconductors Application Catapult is helping the UK become a global leader in compound semiconductors by helping companies to develop and commercialise new applications utilising this technology.