Does the UK's semiconductor strategy hit the mark?

1 min read

Last week saw the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology unveil a National Semiconductor Strategy that is intended to boost the “strengths and skills in design, R&D and compound semiconductors, while helping to grow domestic chip firms across the UK.”

The strategy has laid out government plans to invest up to £1bn over the next decade to improve access to infrastructure, drive research and development and help to support greater international cooperation.

The plan sees up to £200 million being invested over the years 2023-25, suggesting that reaching the £1bn target will require the next government to invest the bulk of the money.

The strategy is intended to grow the domestic semiconductor sector, mitigate the risk of supply chain disruption and protect the UK’s security.

The strategy will see the setting up of a UK Semiconductor Advisory Panel that will drive the policy, represent the sector and provide advice and feedback, while an incubator pilot “will focus on removing obstacles which hold semiconductor start-ups back from growth.” It will do this by providing access to technical resources, coaching and networking.

Finally, there will be some form of support for learning advanced skills, such as electrical and electronic engineering, and computer science.

So, does it deliver? Well, it doesn’t match the spending being seen in the US and EU. £1bn wont even buy you one basic semiconductor plant, as one critic of the plan said.

Under the strategy, the planned decade-long investment will look to target areas such as design, research and development, so it is focusing on where the UK’s strengths lie.

But money is, as always, the issue. The US has pledged $52bn in subsidies for semiconductor manufacturing and research, while the EU has drawn up a €43bn investment plan for the sector.

The UK’s £1bn investment is tiny by comparison and the level of investment announced for the next two-year period is certainly disappointing.

If the £200m allocated is spread too thinly it won’t achieve anything, so it will need to be allocated in a targeted way to have any impact.

A missed opportunity? Well, it could be seen as a ‘start’ in developing a more focused and comprehensive strategy for the UK’s semiconductor industry, but it does look like a missed opportunity and is certainly lacking in detail when compared to the plans announced for quantum technologies earlier this year.