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World’s first Compound Semiconductor cluster launches in Westminster

18 November 2015

IQE plc Headquarters Building exterior Cardiff, UK
IQE plc Headquarters, Cardiff, UK

Partnership between industry and academia formally launched

The vision for a cluster, with the power to create 5,000 new jobs, is based on a joint venture between IQE plc – the leading global supplier of advanced semiconductor wafers – and Cardiff University. Backed by funding from Welsh Government, the partnership aims to build a centre of excellence that represents a key milestone for the development and commercialisation of next generation Compound Semiconductor (CS) 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, CSs are hailed as a 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. It would represent a central base of operations for UK (and wider EU regions) efforts to reclaim high value technology manufacturing from competitors in East Asia.    

The partnership, which will also be launched at Cardiff Castle next week (26 November), will see Cardiff-based IQE plc, whose technology can be found in most mobile devices on the world market, working closely with Cardiff University’s new £40 million Institute of Compound Semiconductors (ICS).

Dr Drew Nelson, Chief Executive of IQE, said: “Much of the Compound Semiconductor technology used in devices across the world is developed and manufactured in Wales. But technology evolves at a rapid pace.  One of the big problems in the UK is that we frequently fail to take the steps needed to commercialise 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 £12 million in capital investment to the venture, with IQE committing hardware, buildings, infrastructure as well as licensing certain intellectual property to the CSC.

The ICS forms part of Cardiff University’s £300m investment in new research and innovation centres, and its potential is already recognised by the Welsh and UK governments, who have invested over £29m towards its creation. 

Professor Diana Huffaker, Ser Cymru Chair in Advanced Engineering and Materials, has been appointed from UCLA in the United States to become Director of Cardiff University’s ICS.

Professor Huffaker said:“The Compound Semiconductor Centre is a unique facility. It brings together Cardiff University research in parallel with industrial scale production from IQE and future industrial partners. In effect, the partnership builds a bridge from basic research to commercial technology transfer. It will foster education at all levels and help create jobs within Cardiff and Wales. The venture allows IQE to try experimental ideas which they really think will be important, while Cardiff benefits from IQE’s business direction. CSC and ICS will be open for business for any interested industrial and academic users."

Collectively, the ICS, the joint venture, and IQE’s existing world class CS operation in Cardiff establishes the core elements of a CS ecosystem in Wales to bridge early stage research, product development, prototyping, and pilot production, through to high volume manufacturing.