23 June 2023

Huge boost for the UK semiconductor industry

The UK Government announced on 19 May 2023 its long-awaited national semiconductor strategy, setting out a 20-year plan to help secure and grow the UK’s world leading expertise in semiconductor technologies, whilst also strengthening resilience to supply chain disruption and protecting national security.

The national strategy recognises the importance of semiconductors to modern technologies of today and the future, and to the growth of the UK economy. The global semiconductor market, which was valued at $601.7 billion in 2022, is expected to grow by 6% to 8% a year up to 2030. The potential for growth in this industry is therefore huge and the government’s strategy is to bolster the UK’s position in the global semiconductor market by maintaining and building on its strengths.

The national strategy identifies the UK’s strategic and longstanding strengths in compound semiconductors, semiconductor chip design and intellectual property (IP), as well as world-leading research and development (R&D) supported by universities, which will play an important role in the development of new semiconductor technologies. Emphasis is placed on securing the UK an advantage in technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), high performance computers, quantum and cyber, to drive economic growth and future discoveries.

The strategy sets out a number of ambitious initiatives to help secure and grow the UK semiconductor industry, including a commitment to invest up to £1 billion in the sector over the next 10 years, with £200 million earmarked for the 2023-2025 period. The funding aims to, among other things, help deliver a new National Semiconductor Infrastructure Initiative and a specialist incubator pilot for semiconductor startups to improve access to infrastructure and facilities, as well as boost UK commercial innovation for SMEs to help make them seem more attractive to investors, and help new products get from lab to market faster than ever.

The strategy also involves a commitment to strengthen existing collaborations with international partners, such as Japan, South Korea and the US, to help develop skills and capabilities in new areas and improve supply chain resilience. The announcement is timely and comes as other tech ‘superpowers’ including the US, China, Japan and the EU are investing heavily in maintaining their global position in the semiconductor market.

A key takeaway is that supporting further research, innovation and commercialisation in the UK semiconductor sector is central to the government’s plan for growing the industry and the economy.

Innovation naturally leads to the generation of IP, and patents are increasingly being used as an indicator of innovation activity. The UK is currently eighth globally and third in Europe for the number of semiconductor international patent families, behind Germany and France. We expect this to change in the coming years as the success of the strategy should, in part, be reflected in a rise in the number of patent filings on semiconductor technologies.

Although perhaps not as much funding as some might have hoped for, the government’s national semiconductor strategy comes as a welcome boost to the UK’s semiconductor industry.