Welsh chip foundry planned

Welsh chip foundry planned

Business news |
By eeNews Europe

A compound semiconductor foundry would address smaller volumes and be much lower cost to construct than a silicon equivalent and would probably work with 200mm-diameter and smaller wafers, according to Chris Meadows, open innovation director at IQE. But it would meet national and European Union objectives of increasing the commercialization of European research while retaining the manufacturing of those circuits.

The foundry would operate in parallel with a joint venture research body that is being created by Cardiff University and IQE.

The not yet named joint venture could be called something like the Compound Semiconductor Research Foundation and is seen as a key element within a compound semiconductor cluster centered in Wales.

The venture, which is due to start on August 1, 2015, will be jointly owned and jointly controlled by Cardiff University and IQE. IQE is contributing equipment with a market value of £12 million (about $19 million), which is being matched by a cash contribution from Cardiff University. IQE will also license certain intellectual property to the JV.

The joint venture research body will look to Belgium’s IMEC and Germany’s Fraunhofer Institutes for its business model, according to Meadows, in that it is chartered with taking university-based research closer to commercialization and to be a focus for contract research and precompetitive collaboration between commercial participants in the compound semiconductor sector.

"IQE is starting by assigning 50 or 60 people to work at the joint venture and then sub-contracting them to perform work for IQE. So yes the JV is taking on contract research as part of the business model," said Meadows.

Next: Prof. Diana Huffaker

The venture will work closely with Cardiff University’s Institute of Compound Semiconductors (ICS). In May, the university announced that Professor Diana Huffaker – based at the University of California, Los Angeles – would lead a new semiconductor research laboratory at Cardiff University.

Professor Diana Huffaker is to lead Cardiff University’s Institute of Compound Semiconductors.

The grouping of ICS, the joint venture and IQE’s existing operation in Cardiff is the starting point for a world-class cluster of operations focused on compound semiconductors for optoelectronics, power and wireless communications, the groups claimed.

A foundry, also based in Wales, would look at a variety of materials including gallium nitride and others, and substrates – including silicon – on which compound semiconductor could be fabricated as thin layers. "This is a large opportunity for Europe," said Meadows. He added that there is a strategic aspect to he creation of a compound semiconductor foundry as some devices used in defense systems are not manufactured in Europe.

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