Government minister visits UCL to chair panel on future of semiconductor industry

Government minister visits UCL to chair panel on future of semiconductor industr
Government minister visits UCL to chair panel on future of semiconductor industry Steve Bramwell, Tony Kenyon, Saqib Bhatti MP and Neil Curson at the London Centre for Nanotechnology. Credit: UCL/Parsons Media.
Minister for Technology and the Digital Economy, Saqib Bhatti MP, said the skills and supply chain are essential in scaling up the UK semi-conductor industry, as he chaired a panel of experts from research and industry hosted at UCL.

Mr Bhatti was welcomed to UCL by Professor Geraint Rees (UCL Vice-Provost for Research, Innovation & Global Engagement) ahead of a roundtable discussion on issues critical to the semiconductor industry.

The Semiconductor Advisory Panel was established by the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT) to enable government to work closely with industry to deliver the goals of the National Semiconductor Strategy , ensuring a stable supply of chips and protecting the UK from risks associated with semiconductor technology.

The Panel was chaired by Mr Bhatti and Dr Jalal Bagherli (Chairman of Williams Advanced Engineering), and featured representatives from the University of Sheffield, UK chip makers Arm and Pragmatic, as well as other industry leaders.

Among the subjects discussed were the need to develop a skills pipeline and build up supply chains, which will be required to scale up the UK semiconductor industry and secure its future.

Saqib Bhatti MP, Minister for Technology and the Digital Economy, said: "Semiconductors underpin our national security and modern way of life. Through advising us on the delivery of our Semiconductor Strategy, the advisory panel I met with last week is helping us to grow the UK sector by doubling down on key strengths in research and design.  It was encouraging to hear from Pragmatic about their plans for growth since their investment from the UK Infrastructure Bank, and I would call on other chip makers to take advantage of this opportunity."

Later, Professor Tony Kenyon led a tour of semiconductor laboratories in the UCL Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering, where work is underway to develop neuromorphic, or ’brain-inspired’, computing.

Professor Kenyon, Vice Dean (Strategy) from UCL Faculty of Engineering Sciences and founder of spin-out Intrinsic Semiconductor Technologies, said: "The ultimate aim of the research underway at UCL and more widely is to create chips that are faster and more energy efficient. One way that we’re approaching this is to design semiconductors inspired by the brain, which has enormous processing power for the amount of energy used. It’s this sort of innovation that is needed to push the semiconductor industry forward and drive the applications of the future."

This was followed by a tour of the London Centre for Nanotechnology (LCN), led by Professors Steve Bramwell, Neil Curson and John Morton. This included a visit to laboratories where single atoms are manipulated by huge magnets in extremely low temperatures, and single atoms are placed in special arrangements, in aid of the quest to make quantum computing a reality.

Professor Bramwell, Director of the London Centre for Nanotechnology at UCL, said: " Quantum computers will be many orders of magnitude more powerful than the best current computers, capable of performing complex calculations that are practically impossible today. But they also rely on some of the deepest laws of physics and pose a significant engineering challenge that we’re unlikely to solve without the collaboration between physics, chemistry, biology and engineering that we champion at UCL."

Led by Dr Antonio Lombardo, the Panel finally visited the LCN Cleanroom facility, where nanoscale semiconductor devices are fabricated for scientific research.

Matt Midgley

Email: m.midgley [at] ucl.ac.uk
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