UK announces £16.6m funding to bolster semiconductor innovation for green technologies

Article by Aniqah Majid

The bulk of the funding will be used to build semiconductors that are used in power electronics

THE UK’s semiconductor industry is set to benefit from a £16.6m (US$21m) cash injection that will give them access to new equipment to develop semiconductors for green technologies.

Open access tools will be available, primarily in Newcastle and Strathclyde, for researchers and businesses to test and build semiconductors, also known as chips, and improve the packaging process. 

The bulk of the investment, made through Innovate UK, will be used to build semiconductors that are used in power electronics. These are necessary for electrification in some of industry’s largest emitters of CO2, including transport, energy, and data processing.

The funding is part of the UK’s National Semiconductor Strategy, and the wider UK Science and Technology Framework, which positions semiconductors as one of the five technologies of tomorrow, along with AI, bioengineering, wireless infrastructure, and quantum computing.

What the funding will do

Researchers will use the equipment for a range of processes related to packaging, including adding complex casing to silicon wafers, slicing silicon wafers to make smaller chips, and binding complex materials together to make chips.

Manufacturers will also be able to use the funding to improve the technology used to automate assembly processes, as well as build and test the conversion of electric drives.

Paul Jarvie, centre lead for the Driving the Electric Revolution Industrial Centres (DER-IC) for the South West and Wales, said: “The new funding will help enable and de-risk the scale-up challenge for UK packaging companies and allow semiconductors to reach their full potential in applications ranging from electric vehicles and renewable energy to manufacturing and data centres.”

According to the Department for Science, Innovation & Technology, improving the packaging process will make chips less energy intensive and help them cool down faster in hot environments like manufacturing.

The National Semiconductor Strategy and decarbonisation promise

The funding and new equipment builds on the existing machinery open to researchers and businesses in the UK through DER-IC. Backed by £33m of funding in 2019, the centre is focused on decarbonising power electronics, machines, and drives by supplying equipment that will be used to develop new technologies.

The decarbonisation opportunities of semiconductor technology correspond with the National Semiconductor Strategy and its aims to facilitate the UK’s goal in reaching net zero by 2050 and become a global power in science and technology.

Semiconductors are a major tool in the decarbonisation of transportation, AI, and energy, while innovations in chips are needed to help data centres improve the energy balance of processing large amounts of data. These advanced power chips could save around 48 TW/h of energy, which is more than 38m t of CO2.

As part of the strategy, the UK government has committed up to £200m of funding for semiconductor innovation across 202325, and up to £1bn in the next decade.

Article by Aniqah Majid

Staff reporter, The Chemical Engineer

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