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UK Invests $44M to Join EU’s $1.4B Semiconductor Research Fund

ByHuey Yee Ong

Mar 16, 2024
UK Invests $44M to Join EU's $1.4B Semiconductor Research Fund

UK Invests $44M to Join EU’s $1.4B Semiconductor Research Fund

The United Kingdom is investing $44 million to be part of the European Union’s $1.4 billion project focused on semiconductor research. This move is to strengthen its own research in semiconductors and stay connected with European advances in this important area of technology.

Despite its departure from the EU, the UK is making efforts to remain involved in collaborative technological advancements., particularly in the realm of semiconductors, a cornerstone for future tech developments ranging from artificial intelligence to next-generation consumer electronics and automobiles.

The British government announced its participation in the EU’s “Chips Joint Undertaking” as a “participating state.” This means that UK-based organizations, whether they’re research institutions or businesses, can access the substantial €1.3 billion (about $1.4 billion) fund dedicated to semiconductor research and development. This financial commitment shows the UK’s strategic move to tap into larger collaborative funding pools to drive its semiconductor research forward. Additionally, the UK plans to contribute £35 million (approximately $44 million) from its own resources in the coming years to support local efforts in this field.

Breakdown of UK’s Semiconductor Funding

To provide a clearer understanding of the financial contributions and their designated purposes within this initiative, here’s a breakdown of the UK and EU’s investment in semiconductor research and development:

Initial UK Funding£5 millionAssist organizations in fund application
Additional UK Funding£30 millionSupport research from 2025 to 2027
Total UK Investment£35 millionOverall support for semiconductor research
EU Chips Joint Undertaking€1.3 billion (~$1.4 billion)Fund accessible to participating states

Out of the total UK commitment, £5 million is allocated initially to help UK organizations apply for access to these important funds. The remaining £30 million will be distributed between 2025 and 2027 to support further research activities. This funding plan aims to strengthen the UK’s semiconductor industry, which, according to the government, there are “tens of thousands of companies” in this industry eligible for grants averaging up to £450,000 each.

The semiconductor industry’s importance cannot be overstated, as it is crucial for various technological advancements. Semiconductors play a pivotal role in developing more powerful computing systems for artificial intelligence applications, modern consumer electronics, and upcoming automotive technologies. Despite fierce competition, the UK is taking steps to establish a stronger position in this essential sector.

How Is the UK Strengthening Tech Partnerships Globally?

The approaching application deadline of May 14 reflects the urgency and opportunity for UK organizations to leverage this unique cross-border collaboration. This move is part of a broader strategy by the UK to foster international technology partnerships post-Brexit, which includes:

  • Data Sharing Agreement with Korea: Enhancing cooperation in the exchange of technological data.
  • Science and Innovation Pact with Canada: Fostering joint research and development initiatives.
  • Tech and Data Deal with the United States: Broadening the collaboration in technology and data management.

Europe’s Investment in Semiconductor Resilience

In Europe, there’s significant investment and complex funding structures in the semiconductor industry. The Chips Joint Undertaking, created under the European Chips Act of 2023, has a total budget of €11 billion from both public and private sources. This act aims to strengthen the region’s semiconductor independence and resilience in the face of global supply chain uncertainties heightened by geopolitical tensions. The research and development part of this initiative falls within the broader Horizon Europe program, which covers a wide range of sectors and has a budget of €95.5 billion. The UK’s involvement in Horizon Europe, established last year, has already led to significant projects like Nova Innovation’s tidal energy development in Orkney and advancements in road safety by “The Floow.”

UK Technology Minister Saqib Bhatti underscored the mutual benefits of this partnership at a London semiconductor conference, highlighting the UK’s rich talent and research capabilities as central contributions to the EU’s efforts. The global race for superior, energy-efficient semiconductor technologies places a premium on R&D, positioning it as a critical factor in maintaining competitiveness and innovation in the field.

The UK has historically been a key player in semiconductor research, exemplified by Cambridge-based Arm’s influence in chip design and the market dynamics following its public floatation and a failed acquisition attempt by Nvidia. Other UK entities like Bristol’s Graphcore and Cambridge’s Pragmatic Semiconductor continue to represent the region’s potential in advancing semiconductor technology, with the latter securing substantial investment, including from the UK government, in late 2023.

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Featured Image courtesy of FLORENCE LO/REUTERS

Huey Yee Ong

Hello, from one tech geek to another. Not your beloved TechCrunch writer, but a writer with an avid interest in the fast-paced tech scenes and all the latest tech mojo. I bring with me a unique take towards tech with a honed applied psychology perspective to make tech news digestible. In other words, I deliver tech news that is easy to read.

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