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The University of Southampton

Southampton given millions to drive UK's semiconductor plans

Published: 7 February 2024
Prof Reed and Minister Bhatti
Southampton to drive future of semiconductor tech

Southampton will drive the future of new semiconductor technology after receiving millions of pounds of investment.

Plans to launch two new centres to boost the UK's research and production of the microchips has been announced as part of a £26.8million government package.

Semiconductors power electrical items worldwide, from mobiles and computers to healthcare equipment, transportation systems, and clean energy technology.

The Optoelectronics Research Centre (ORC) at Southampton has been chosen to lead on one the two new Innovation and Knowledge Centres (IKC), under the name CORNERSTONE, alongside another located at the University of Bristol.

The IKCs will deliver on the ambitions of the government’s national semiconductor strategy, a 20-year plan to boost the UK’s strengths and skills in design, research and innovation in the microchips.

Professor Graham Reed , Director of the ORC, said: “The CORNERSTONE centre will unite leading UK entrepreneurs and researchers, together with a network of support to improve the commercialisation of semiconductors and deliver a step-change in the silicon photonics industry.”

The ORC is a world renowned Photonics research centre that has been pioneering all aspects of photonics for many years, from novel optical fibre development, to photonics within semiconductor and other integrated photonics chips.

Funding for the Innovation and Knowledge Centres has come from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and Innovate UK, both part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).

Southampton's £11million centre will work to improve the development and commercialisation of silicon photonics technologies. Silicon is the most commonly used material in semiconductors for electronics, and silicon photonics  is an emerging technology with the potential to transform every aspect of our lives.

It is already integral to photonics devices including communications systems in data centres that underpin the internet, and other emerging applications that offer the UK significant commercialisation opportunities, ranging from healthcare and environmental sensing, to imaging and AI as well as many more.

The centre will bring together industry and research expertise to translate silicon photonics technologies from research labs into industry and support the creation of new companies and jobs.

Minister for Tech and the Digital Economy Saqib Bhatti said: "This investment marks a crucial step in advancing our ambitions for the semiconductor industry, with these centres helping bring new technologies to market in areas like net zero and AI, rooting them right here in the UK.

“Just nine months into delivering on the National Semiconductor Strategy, we’re already making rapid progress towards our goals.

“This isn’t just about fostering growth and creating high-skilled jobs, it's about positioning the UK as a hub of global innovation, setting the stage for breakthroughs that have worldwide impact.”

Read more about the pioneering work of the Optoelectronics Research Centre (ORC) at the University of Southampton.

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