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Bid launched to create world’s first Compound Semiconductor cluster

27 November 2015

CSC launch Cardiff

A partnership between industry and academia to create the world’s first Compound Semiconductor technology cluster has been launched in Wales

The creation of a cluster, with potential to create 5,000 new jobs in Wales, centres on a joint business venture between Cardiff University and IQE plc – the leading global supplier of advanced semiconductor wafers.

The Compound Semiconductor Centre (CSC) aims to develop and commercialise next generation Compound Semiconductor (CS) technologies. The high-tech components are used in many communications networks and devices such as smartphones and tablets.

CSC is backed by the Institute for Compound Semiconductors (ICS) – a new Cardiff University research facility dedicated to the development and exploitation of CS research. Welsh Government has provided a £12m funding package to support the construction, fit-out, and purchase of equipment for ICS.

Launching CSC at Cardiff Castle, Minister for Economy and Science, Edwina Hart said: “Our support has been widely recognised by external bodies as the catalyst for developing this compound semiconductor industry cluster of European scale and global reach which will create critical mass in the supply chain. The Institute forms a cornerstone of what will be a truly transformational project and ensure Wales has the recognition it deserves as a leader in this exciting smart specialisation technology.”

Professor Hywel Thomas, Pro Vice-Chancellor, Research, Innovation and Engagement, said: "The granting of the £12m funding package is a major step in the development of the Institute for Compound Semiconductors and CSC. State of the art facilities funded by Welsh Government will be harnessed by some of the world's leading CS researchers to develop 21st Century technologies with the power to change the way we live."

The European Commission’s economic growth strategy to reindustrialise the EU, “Horizon 2020”, identifies CS as one of the key enabling technologies for increased productivity and the key economic growth drivers. This cluster 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.

Four significant clusters based around silicon technologies already exist in Europe, but Cardiff’s CSC will be the first centre to build on the exciting potential of CS technology.

Dr Drew Nelson, Chief Executive of IQE, said: “Semiconductors are the unsung heroes of our modern world.  Most people don’t realise that much of this technology is developed and manufactured in Wales. 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. 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 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.