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£35 million boost for British semiconductor scientists and businesses on international chip research

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  • Semiconductor sector to benefit from up to £35 million, plus European funds, in a boost to British leadership in research of cutting-edge chip technology
  • UK joins European initiative to access €1.3 billion Horizon Europe funding pot for collaborative semiconductor research projects
  • Boost to help push boundary of semiconductor design, improving tech used in all digital devices and advances the government’s plan to secure long term growth

British semiconductor researchers and businesses now have enhanced access to research funding backed by the UK government and Horizon Europe, now the UK has joined the EU’s ‘Chips Joint Undertaking’.  

The move provides the UK semiconductor sector enhanced access to a €1.3 billion pot of funds set aside from Horizon Europe to support research in semiconductor technologies up to 2027. 

Access to the one of the Chips Joint Undertaking’s funds is being backed by an initial £5 million this year from the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology, and delivered by Innovate UK. An additional £30 million is due to support UK participation in further research between 2025 and 2027. 

By joining the fund and contributing in the same way as all other countries who take part, the UK sector has enhanced access to bid for funding support from the €1.3 billion pot, funded by Horizon Europe.

Announcing the move at a conference of global semiconductor leaders in London, Technology Minister Saqib Bhatti said: 

Our membership of the Chips Joint Undertaking will boost Britain’s strengths in semiconductor science and research to secure our position in the global chip supply chain.

This underscores our unwavering commitment to pushing the boundaries of technology and cements our important role in shaping the future of semiconductor technologies around the world.

This follows the UK joining Horizon Europe through a bespoke new agreement with the EU last year. The programme is giving UK companies and research institutions unrivalled opportunities to lead global work to develop new technologies and research projects, in areas from health to AI.  

Tens of thousands of UK companies are now eligible for Horizon Europe grants, which are worth £450,000 to a business on average. UK firms already benefitting from Horizon funding include Nova Innovation, whose consortium won over £17 million to develop tidal energy in Orkney, and South Yorkshire tech firm The Floow who are part of a project awarded just under £3 million, looking into road safety. 

Jari Kinaret, Chips JU Executive Director, said:

We are very happy to welcome the UK to the Chips Joint Undertaking as a participating state. We are looking forward to working with the UK partners to develop the European industrial ecosystem in microelectronics and its applications, contributing to the continent’s scientific excellence and innovation leadership in semiconductor technologies and related fields.

This year, the Chips Joint Undertaking fund is well aligned to UK research expertise. In 2024, it includes two focussed calls for funding bids on semiconductors for cars and other vehicles as well as RISC-V, an open-source architecture that aims to accelerate semiconductor innovation by lowering the cost of chip design. It also provides more open opportunities for scientists and firms to bid for research support.

Sean Redmond, Managing Partner at SiliconCatalyst, said:  

UK Semiconductor startups have a rich history of collaboration with the European Union. Our semiconductor research base is the fourth largest in the world.  

Commercialising these inventions with the help of the EU Chips Joint Undertaking will significantly increase their probability of success, mitigating risks by local collaborations that provide a clear path from lab to fab.

Jalal Bagherli, Chairman, PTSL, Chair, Williams Advanced Engineering and Co-Chair of UK Semiconductor Advisory Panel, said:  

As the UK Semiconductor Strategy ramps up its implementation phase in support of a thriving industry, I believe this initiative is the next major step enabling engagement with our global partners to advance the state of the art in chip development and innovative packaging technologies in the UK.

The UK has joined the initiative as a “Participating State”, allowing the country to collaborate more closely with European partners on semiconductor innovation. As a Participating State, the UK will have a role in setting research priorities and funding decisions as the fund evolves in the years ahead. 

This includes the opportunity for the UK to be a part of a new funding opportunity with the Republic of Korea to research ways to combine semiconductor chips to improve performance through advanced packaging – which the UK-Republic of Korea Semiconductor Framework, signed in November last year.  

British research has elsewhere led global efforts to push semiconductor technology forward in fields like “silicon photonics”, which creates faster chips by using light instead of electricity, and compound semiconductors, which enable improved performance over silicon in key applications such as power transmission and radiofrequency communications.

Martin Kuball, Chair of the Royal Academy of Engineering in Emerging Technologies, professor in physics at the University of Bristol, United Kingdom, and director of the Centre for Device Thermography and Reliability, said:  

We are excited for the UK to participate in the EU Chips Joint Undertaking. This will enable us to work with key EU partners to advance and commercialize high voltage power electronics we develop within in the IKC REWIRE, as well as high power high frequency RF technology we develop within UK, US and European Space Agency (ESA) programmes.

This follows DSIT and UK Research and Innovation investing £22 million in two Innovation and Knowledge Centres located in Southampton and Bristol, aimed at reinforcing these key areas of British research leadership. These centres are dedicated to advancing cutting-edge chip technologies, such as silicon photonics and compound semiconductors, toward commercialisation.

Chris Meadows, Director, CSconnected, said:  

CSconnected, the organisation representing the South Wales Compound Semiconductor sector, warmly welcomes the news that the UK is to join the EU Chips Joint Undertaking. 

Collaboration is at the very heart of our fast growing and rapidly evolving semiconductor sector that underpins technologies of today and is key to enabling our future connected world, AI, robotics, and in meeting global net-zero ambitions.

Jen Walls, Chief Executive Officer Clas-Sic Wafer Fab, said:  

This is good news for UK Semiconductors, opening up opportunities for UK Companies to compete with our European peers on a more level playing field. The UK has a lot to offer in this sector and we are grateful as this will foster a more supportive environment for innovation.

Vaysh Kewada, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Salience Labs, said:  

Semiconductors are critical to the UK’s economic and national security. They underpin crucial technologies such as advancement in AI. The UK produces world-leading research in silicon photonics, compound semiconductors and others. This government support is a good step forward to foster growth and to ensure that the UK remains relevant in the critical technologies of tomorrow.

Martin McHugh, CEO at CSA Catapult, said:

This is an excellent opportunity for UK researchers and businesses to strengthen links with our EU partners and collaborate on cutting-edge semiconductor projects of national importance.

Access to the Horizon Europe funds will enable the UK to partner on projects where we have mutual and significant strengths, such as design, advanced packaging and compound semiconductors.

Dr. Giorgia Longobardi, Founder and CEO Cambridge GaN Devices, said:

The UK joining the European initiative to access €1.3 billion Horizon Europe fund for collaborative research in semiconductors is an exciting news.

Semiconductors are at the base of core technologies that can solve important societal challenges, among which net zero and electrification, and significant advancements in the field can be achieved only thanks to collaborative efforts and government support.

Notes to editors

Information on how to access this funding can be found here.

The deadline for Phase 1 applications this year is 14 May. 

Jari Kinaret, Executive Director of the Chips Joint Undertaking, will provide an online information session at 1pm on 19 March 2024. Sign-up is available via this link .

Innovate UK will also be hosting an information session on the 25 March. Here’s the link to our event on 25 March to add .

Innovate UK has a Horizon Europe hub on its website with information on upcoming funding calls and details on how to receive advice and support from National Contact Points. 

It also offers travel grants for SMEs who want to build networks in Europe.

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