UK government's semiconductor brain trust meets for the first time

Actually listening to the experts? We'll believe it when we see it

The UK government has confirmed the formation of an expert semiconductor panel to advise on the future of the country's chip industry, and also disclosed the first design incubator to support startups.

This UK Semiconductor Advisory Panel was announced in May, when the government finally detailed its long-delayed national semiconductor strategy, but is meeting with Technology Minister Paul Scully for the first time at Imperial College London today.

Membership of the panel comprises voices from across the semiconductor sector, such as experts in venture capital, skills, and research, according to the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT).

These include Arm chief architect Richard Grisenthwaite; Dr Eben Upton, CEO of the Raspberry Pi Foundation; Professor John Goodenough, the Chair in Microelectronic Systems at the University of Sheffield; plus executives from IQE, Pragmatic, and Clas-SiC Wafer Fab.

In its announcement, DSIT said the panel will provide the government with advice and feedback on how best to support companies in the semiconductor industry and ensure other British industries have access to the chips they need to deliver products and grow the economy.

It will be co-chaired by Scully and the former chief executive of Dialog Semiconductor, Dr Jalal Bagherli.

In a statement, Scully said: "Properly engaging and listening to the experts at the heart of researching, designing and producing semiconductors is essential if we're serious about growing our domestic sector, protecting our national security, and unleashing rapid innovation across the British economy," which would surely rank as a first for the British government.

The panel will meet every two months to agree on key actions that industry and government need to take to advance the sector. Meetings will focus on how to nurture skills, improve access to finance, and on developing stronger international collaboration. DSIT said the panel aims to engage broadly across the industry and government to achieve those goals.

Raspberry Pi supremo Upton told The Register: "It's an exciting opportunity to have some input into how the government looks to support our domestic semiconductor industry. We have some distinctive strengths here in the UK, around IP development and compound semiconductors, and there are more companies than you might think (including Raspberry Pi) building complete devices on regular CMOS technology,"

"Hopefully we can make rapid progress, and identify some points of leverage where the government can apply relatively modest amounts of support to good effect," he added.

The CEO of trade association techUK, Julian David, described it as a welcome step to help the UK's semiconductor industry at home and abroad.

"The success of the [semiconductor] strategy will come down to delivery, and an independent coalition of industry voices will help to ensure that this achieves its full potential. If this 'Chips Coalition' can work as a credible and relevant industry voice, then it will be a pivotal part of a success story for UK technology," he said.

Meanwhile, Professor Wyn Meredith, chair of the South Wales semiconductor cluster CSconnected, pointed out that more investment would be needed than the government has promised.

"Having a UK strategy in place to complement the US and European Chip Acts is a step in the right direction. It's critical that the £1 billion investment package is intelligently leveraged with further private capital," he said, adding: "Compound semiconductors is an area in which the UK has significant expertise."

Also announced today, the UK's first semiconductor design incubator will be run by Silicon Catalyst.UK, described by DSIT as "an experienced startup accelerator," and is intended to nurture semiconductor startups from across the UK through a nine-month incubator program.

Companies wishing to join the pilot incubator process, due to start in October, can apply via the Silicon Catalyst.UK website before September 15. ®

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