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Research partnership leads to world's first Compound Semiconductor Cluster

Our research and our partnership with a compound semiconductor facility has led to the world’s first Compound Semiconductor Cluster and investment of over £167 million.

Compound semiconductors underpin the next generation of opto-electronic devices, but the UK has lacked an end-to-end compound semiconductor industry. For some years researchers in the School of Physics and Astronomy have been engaged in developing methods for the improved design, production and characterisation of compound semiconductors. This has resulted in more efficient manufacturing processes and quality control. As a result, a research partnership developed between compound semiconductor manufacturer, IQE, and researchers at Cardiff. This strategic partnership and IQE’s decision to expand its manufacturing base, and to maintain its headquarters in Wales, resulted in the foundation of the world’s first Compound Semiconductor Cluster which has led to investment of over £167 million.


The rich functionality afforded by the multitude of ways compound semiconductors can be combined underpins much of our modern electronic technology. Subtle differences in the manufacture of the epitaxial layers and the three-dimensional structuring of compound semiconductors can greatly affect the final application. The Condensed Matter and Photonics (CMP) group in the School of Physics and Astronomy has a sustained record of research and innovation in how compound semiconductor layers are combined and their effect on device performance, particularly for lasers, amplifiers, and applied photonics. This fundamental research has established our research group as the research and development base for the South Wales Compound Semiconductor Cluster, producing more efficient and accurate methods to assist development of novel compound semiconductor designs. By focusing on novel characterisation techniques, our research has led to improvements in:

  • the design of the epitaxial layers;
  • the fabrication of these into device structures;
  • and the characterisation of resulting materials and devices.

The advantages that this research provides in manufacturing quality control and in generating designs for future products have established us at the forefront of compound semiconductor research and development in South Wales.

In March 2015 the university secured a £17.3M UK Research Partnership Investment Fund (UKRPIF) award to establish the Institute for Compound Semiconductors (ICS) translational research facility. The ICS was supported by match funding from IQE, with an additional £12M investment by the Welsh Government and £13M from the European Regional Development Fund. The ICS was further supported by a £2M grant to purchase equipment. The ICS facility is an applied and translational research facility that houses both 4” (research scale) and 8” (industrial scale) equipment.


Our research has laid the foundation for the establishment in South Wales of a major technological cluster for the design, development and commercialisation of compound semiconductors. An initial partnership between the School of Physics and Astronomy and IQE encouraged the company to maintain their manufacturing base in South Wales and further develop their presence in the region. As a result of this collaboration we have:

  • established a joint-venture company with £12M private investment and created 70 jobs;
  • attracted external investment and jobs to the cluster, including locating the UK’s Compound Semiconductor Catapult and attracting private businesses to the region; and
  • enabled the foundation of the Newport Mega Foundry, directly creating 90 new jobs and safeguarding 545 jobs by preserving a UK manufacturing base.

Our research partnership with IQE has led to the development of the world’s first Compound Semiconductor Cluster which has attracted over £167 million in investment. New companies have been established in South Wales and a new UK manufacturing base now supports over 1,687 jobs.


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