July 19, 2024
As UK launches semiconductor institute, EU chips get €2.5B boost

Amid a global race for semiconductor independence, the UK announced today a designated institute that will oversee its £1bn strategy on growing its chips sector. At the same time, Belgium-based research hub imec has landed €2.5bn in funding from the EU Chips Act.

Dubbed the UK Semiconductor Institute, the independent body will bring together government, universities, and the private sector to support the key focus areas of the national strategy: compound chips, design, and research and development.

Specifically, the institute has three main tasks. The first one is ensuring that chip researchers have the necessary tools and infrastructure to advance the focus areas above and create market-ready products.

It will also act as an entry point for tech businesses and international partners who wish to work with the UK’s semiconductor sector. Finally, the body will target the development of specialist skills.

According to Mark Lippett, CEO of Bristol-based chipmaker XMOS, the institute’s upcoming launch represents a sign of optimism.

“It is very encouraging to see the increasing commitment of the UK government to our semiconductor industry,” Lippett told TNW.

For Allan Kaye, CEO and co-founder at Vespertec, a data centre solutions provider in Stockport, the institute is a “crucial step” towards strengthening the UK’s ambitions.

“Promoting British expertise in these supporting areas [design, research, and innovation] and taking advantage of our involvement with global leaders in the semiconductor market will be key to attracting foreign investment,” Kaye said.

New funding for the EU’s semiconductor sector

Attracting investment is also a key part of the EU’s Chips Act, which aims to mobilise €43bn in private and public funding.

Under the act’s push, Belgium-based research hub imec will receive €2.5bn to host a pilot line of sub-2 nanometre chips. This technology is expected to boost various industries, from the automotive sector to healthcare.

The pilot aims to provide Europe’s industry, academics, and startups with access to chip manufacturing technology that would be prohibitively expensive for any single entity to test or develop on their own.

A key part of its success will be the creation of a pan-European design platform, coupled with a network of competence centres for skills training.

imec will work together with European research labs including Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft in Germany and VTT in Finland.

“The investment will allow us to double volumes and learning speed, accelerating our innovation pace, strengthening the European chip ecosystem, and driving economic growth in Europe.” said Luc Van den hove, President and CEO of imec.

More than half of the pilot’s funding will come from public investment. Private companies, including ASML, will invest approximately 1.1bn.

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