The funding will help expand CSA Catapult’s activities across the future telecoms landscape and develop new compound semiconductor technologies to improve the speed, energy efficiency and security of the UK’s communications networks.
The announcement, which was made in the Autumn Statement, coincides with the launch of CSA Catapult’s new Future Telecoms Hub, which was officially opened.
Funded through an initial £2.5m investment by Innovate UK and based at the Bristol and Bath Science Park, the Future Telecoms Hub combines state-of-the-art equipment with leading expertise to test and develop new telecoms hardware made using compound semiconductors.
Compound semiconductors are at the heart of the UK’s future telecoms networks and are used to build devices that process and transmit data at extremely high speeds and require much less power to operate.
Compound semiconductors are also used in quantum devices that allow us to securely transfer data from one place to another.
A priority of the Future Telecoms Hub will be to improve the performance of power amplifiers— components that boost signals before they are transmitted from a base station to smartphones and computers.
Analysis from CSA Catapult has revealed that in a typical base station, power amplifiers can account for up to 80% of the power consumed. As base stations themselves account for over 70% of power consumption across the whole telecoms network, there is a sizeable opportunity to drastically increase energy efficiency by improving just a single device.
CSA Catapult analysis also shows that RF power amplifiers present one of the biggest market opportunities across the network, with the global market set to grow to $9 billion by 20252.
Devices built using compound semiconductors - specifically gallium nitride (GaN) - are expected to occupy 25-35% of that addressable market, with a value of $2.5-2.7 billion.
The Future Telecoms Hub will complement CSA Catapult’s existing operations at its headquarters in Newport, South Wales by providing closer access to a thriving telecoms ecosystem across Bristol and the Southwest that includes several major technology companies and research institutions.
The Future Telecoms Hub will also strengthen CSA Catapult’s connection with the Western Gateway and will host collaborative research projects with the University of Bristol.
Martin McHugh, Chief Executive Officer at CSA Catapult said, “We’re delighted to receive this additional funding from Innovate UK, which comes at a significant point in the Catapult’s journey as we open the doors to our new Future Telecoms Hub in Bristol.
“Bristol has an established network of innovative companies and research institutions located within and around the city, as well as strong links with partners across the Western Gateway, so it was a natural fit for us to place our future telecoms capability here.
“With the widespread adoption of 5G and our increasing dependence on connected technologies, the demand for safe, secure and reliable telecoms infrastructure has never been greater. The Future Telecoms Hub will enable our partners to bring new telecoms technologies to market and allow us to continue to build supply chains, increase investment in R&D and grow the UK economy.”
Innovate UK CEO Indro Mukerjee said, “As the national innovation agency, Innovate UK will make these strategic investments to enable innovative businesses to grow in the UK and deliver against some of the biggest global challenges. These investments are part of our core domain activities across Net Zero, Digital & Technologies and Healthy Living & Agriculture.
“They enhance national capability through our world-leading Catapults, and will be deployed across the UK.”