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Funding boost for Southampton and Bristol semiconductor research hubs

Semiconductor research hubs Image credit: mpohodzhay / Shutterstock

Two research hubs in Bristol and Southampton have received £11m each in government funding for research into semiconductor technologies.

The two “Innovation and Knowledge Centres” will provide support to help bring advances in chip technology to market.

Support will come in the form of training for spinouts, workshops and connecting industry players.

The Cornerstone centre in Southampton will focus on the university’s specialism in silicon photonics, an approach to semiconductors that uses light waves instead of electrical currents to communicate information.

Professor Graham Reed, a silicon photonics researcher who will lead the Cornerstone facility, said the centre will “unite leading UK entrepreneurs and researchers, together with a network of support to improve the commercialisation of semiconductors and deliver a step-change in the silicon photonics industry”.

In Bristol, the funding has been awarded to the REWIRE facility, which will focus on wide/ultra-wide bandgap compound semiconductors.

These semiconductors can operate at much higher temperatures and voltages than conventional materials like silicon, making them valuable for energy applications such as the electrical grid and electric vehicles.

“Power devices are at the centre of all power electronic systems and pave the way for more efficient and compact power electronic systems, reducing energy loss,” said Professor Martin Kuball, who is leading the Bristol facility.

“The REWIRE IKC will focus on power conversion of wind energy, high-temperature applications, device and packaging, and improving the efficiency of semiconductor device manufacture.”

The government said it is allocating a further £4.8m for 11 semiconductor skills projects across the UK in a bid to plug the country’s talent gap.

“This investment marks a crucial step in advancing our ambitions for the semiconductor industry, with these centres helping bring new technologies to market in areas like net zero and AI, rooting them right here in the UK,” said Saqib Bhatti, minister for tech and the digital economy.

Bhatti, who visited the Southampton site this week, added: “This isn’t just about fostering growth and creating high-skilled jobs, it’s about positioning the UK as a hub of global innovation, setting the stage for breakthroughs that have worldwide impact.”

The funding package comes as part of the UK’s semiconductor strategy, which was published last year and promises £1bn over 10 years.

The strategy received a mixed response from the UK tech industry, with some describing the funding as “disappointing” when compared to other nations such as the US CHIPS Act, which provides $52.7bn in government support.

The Bristol and Southampton semiconductor research hubs have been announced on the one-year anniversary of the creation of the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT).