25 November 2021
Welsh Government awards £1.73m to expand project for Application Specific Semiconductor Etching Technology
The Welsh Government has announced additional funding of £1.73m for ASSET (Application Specific Semiconductor Etching Technology), an industrially driven, collaborative project developing semiconductor process technologies that is partly funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), under the Welsh Government’s SMART Expertise program.
Project partners across South Wales include SPTS Technologies (a KLA company), Cardiff-based epiwafer and substrate maker IQE plc, The Compound Semiconductor Centre (CSC, a joint venture founded in 2015 between Cardiff University and IQE), Biovici, BioMEMS, Swansea and Cardiff universities and Integrated Compound Semiconductors Ltd (a spin off from the University of Manchester that designs and manufactures RF, sensing and optical devices).
The ASSET industrial partners provide technologies for almost all the world’s smartphones. By developing a host of new semiconductor process technologies using compound semiconductors and next-generation materials, ASSET aims to service new and emerging applications in automotive sensing, 6G, photonics and healthcare.
The expanded project involves additional industry partners from the South Wales Compound Semiconductor Cluster including: CSconnected, smart sensor and network producer UtterBerry, photonics company Wave Photonics, and the UK’s national metrology institute National Physical Laboratory (NPL).
“The expanded ASSET project is a timely boost to the UK semiconductor industry, with exciting developments planned with several of our regional industry partners, and the opening of our £90m Centre for Integrative Semiconductor Materials (CISM) - a new state-of-the-art semiconductor facility at Swansea University - in 2022,” says professor Owen Guy, head of chemistry at Swansea University and lead for the ASSET project.
“UtterBerry is proud to be working with professor Owen Guy and his team at Swansea University on the project, to revolutionize chip manufacturing and to become one of the most advanced centers in the UK,” says Heba Bevan from UtterBerry. “We also look forward to the broader positive changes the team at UtterBerry will make to the area, including job creation, a more efficient transportation network, enhanced connectivity and automation in the clean energy sector.”
“The ASSET expansion links with our new ‘Driving the Electric Revolution (DER)’ Industrial Centres (IC) initiative to create a new sovereign supply chain for the UK in next-generation power electronics components for transport electrification,” note both CISM operations director Dr Matt Elwin and Dr Mike Jennings, associate professor in Electronic Engineering at Swansea. “This funding, plus the £4.82m from the DER Industrialisation Centres program, will help us deliver common goals for increased economic growth, developing clean and resilient supply chains in power electronics, machines and drives,” he adds.
“The ASSET project gives the consortium the ability to work with the extensive fabrication supply chain in the region to further expand our capabilities and capitalize on new and exciting market opportunities,” says Paul Rich, executive VP of product engineering & technology at SPTS.
“The South Wales semiconductor industry employs over 1400 highly skilled people in the region and is set to expand rapidly over the next five years with the growth of 5G, AI and other mega-trend markets,” says the Compound Semiconductor Centre’s founding director Wyn Meredith. “ASSET will support these markets by developing a range of advanced semiconductor processes and expertise to overcome technical and industry challenges,” he adds.