UK Government announces £16.6M investment to support chip testing and research

The UK Government has announced a £16.6 million ($20.9 million) investment to support chip researchers and businesses in accessing new equipment for testing and manufacturing chips.

The Government said these chips are for use in high-energy machines like electric cars and manufacturing equipment. Specifically, £14 million ($17.6 million) of the UK investment is targeted at chip use in power electronics.

Based mainly in Newcastle and Strathclyde, the new tools are intended to assist researchers and businesses test applications of 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.

“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,” said Saqib Bhatti, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Tech and Digital Economy of the UK.

The Government said innovations in advanced packaging will help reduce the power needed to run semiconductors by improving their performance in demanding applications while also ensuring chips can cool down more effectively in hot environments.

Made through Innovate UK, the investment arrives 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.

Executive Director for Net Zero at Innovate UK, Mike Biddle, said 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.

“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,” added Biddle.

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’. The Government said these are pivotal in the conversion of energy into motion in electric vehicles and in manufacturing equipment.

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 ($41.6 million) of funding in 2019.

In February, the UK Government announced two new semiconductor hubs will receive £11 million ($13.8 million) each for research in silicon photonics and compound semiconductors.

The Government said the Bristol and Southampton Innovation and Knowledge Centres (IKC) will help convert scientific findings into business realities. These sites will provide support for research and projects, granting researchers access to advanced prototyping technology to test their complex designs.

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