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£16.6 million boost to power up chips used in electric cars and green energy industry

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Innovate UK

£16.6 million investment announced today to give semiconductor researchers and businesses access to new equipment helping them test and make chips for use in high-energy machines like electric cars and manufacturing equipment.

  • New kit will help chip designers and makers package silicon wafers into semiconductor casings, making them more powerful and less energy hungry
  • the open-access equipment will improve chips for use in electric cars and manufacturing sectors, developing net zero technology
  • investment comes alongside the UK Semiconductor Strategy, which boosts strengths in advanced semiconductor packaging

£14 million of the funding is targeted particularly at semiconductors used in “power electronics”, which is where chips convert and control power in energy intensive machines, including electric vehicles and manufacturing equipment.

The new tools, based predominantly in Newcastle and Strathclyde, will help researchers and businesses of all sizes test applications of new innovations in power electronics and improve their semiconductor ‘packaging’ processes. This involves adding complex casing to silicon wafers so they can interact with the devices they are designed to process information for.

The investment, made through Innovate UK, comes as part of the UK’s Semiconductor Strategy, which identified new ways of packaging and testing chips as a key area to drive performance improvements in semiconductors.

Innovations in advanced packaging will help reduce the power needed to run semiconductors by improving their performance in demanding applications – such as data centres and gaming – while also making sure chips can cool down more effectively in hot environments, such as manufacturing.

Technology Minister Saqib Bhatti said:

New innovations in the way we package up semiconductors have the potential to transform whole industries and vastly improve consumer devices, all while driving long-term economic growth. 

This investment in open-access technology will make sure British researchers have the tools they need to rapidly turn semiconductor science into business reality, all while making hugely energy intensive sectors more sustainable.

The open-access tools will cover a range of processes involved with designing and testing these semiconductors, including ‘slicing’ silicon wafers into smaller chips and bonding complex materials together to make chips.

Funding will also be used to help manufacturers improve the technology used to automate assembly processes, as well as helping build and test ‘drives’ which are pivotal in the conversion of energy into motion in electric vehicles, manufacturing equipment and more.

Mike Biddle, Executive Director, Net Zero at Innovate UK, said:

Innovate UK’s investment into supply chains for Power Electronics, Machines and Drives shows the importance of these technologies to the UK economy and the global race to net zero.

It is exciting to see the breadth of activity in semiconductor packaging as well as electric machine validation and manufacturing. The majority of this investment is strategically aligned with the National Semiconductor Strategy and helps grow the high-value post-wafer capabilities within the UK.

The funding will build on an existing network of machinery open to researchers and businesses across the UK through Driving the Electric Revolution Industrial Centres (DER-IC), originally backed by £33 million of funding in 2019.

DER-IC has previously partnered with the likes of McLaren Applied to test and develop new ways of manufacturing an ‘electric drive train’, a power electronics technology that will be used by companies producing automotives and aeroplanes to bring innovative and more efficient electric products to the market faster.

Professor Matt Boyle OBE, Executive Chair of DER-IC, said:

This funding will allow us to help industry invest further in the technologies of Power Electronics, Machines and Drives (PEMD) manufacture.

Industry has already invested heavily in these electrification manufacturing technologies since the start of the challenge. This additional equipment is being deployed to areas, capability and sectors where industry has stated that it will grow the UK supply chains for PEMD.

Paul Jarvie, Centre Lead for the DER-IC for the South West and Wales and Business Development Manager at CSA Catapult said:

This new funding will help us further improve our offering to the PEMD industry and develop innovative new technologies to drive us towards Net Zero.

The new funding will help enable and de-risk the scale-up challenge for UK packaging companies and allow semiconductors to reach their full potential in applications ranging from electric vehicles and renewable energy to manufacturing and data centres.

About Innovate UK

Innovate UK inspires, involves and invests in businesses developing life-changing innovations to create a better future. Providing sectors with expertise, facilities and funding, Innovate UK helps test, demonstrate and evolve ideas, driving UK productivity and economic growth. Innovate UK’s network and communities of innovators realise the potential of ideas and accelerate business growth.

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