Yesterday, the government published their new semiconductor strategy. Hear more about it on #TheContextBBC: the item starts at 49 minutes and includes an interview with me:

Before the strategy was released, I recorded a podcast with @FoundSciTech about my hopes for the strategy and the needs of the semiconductor sector.
I said the sector needs money, time, people and tools. Sounds simple, huh? So did the strategy deliver? ๐Ÿงต
So, there is some money behind the strategy. There's been a lot of comments about whether it's enough money, given the EU is investing 50 billion Euros, and the US is investing 53 billion dollars in stimulating home grown manufacturing, and intends a total package of 280 billion.
Compared to this, ยฃ1 billion of UK investment looks like a drop in the ocean. But it's worth remembering that the UK hasn't taken a strategic approach to the broad semiconductor sector since the 1980s & when this strategy was first conceived, it was just a set of aspirations.
So, some money is a great deal better than no money, and the devil is going to be in how it's spent, and whether we can apply it effectively to build areas of UK strength and niche capability, where we control the innovation pipeline and the supply chain.
The strategy accurately identifies design, compound semiconductors and advanced/new materials as key areas of strength. In new materials particularly there are opportunities to take UK innovations from lab to product with key elements of the manufacturing process UK based.
If we manage to build on these strengths, that gives us control of key elements of the supply chain for future technologies, and we can (perhaps) leverage that opportunity to protect our access to other parts of the international supply chain.
This isn't about playing catch-up to TSMC (the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company). It's about technologies that may still be in the lab and aren't even a twinkle in TSMC's eye. It's about getting in at the ground floor with the technologies of tomorrow.
And that's why my wishlist for the strategy included not just money but TIME. Getting these new technologies from the lab bench, to prototype, to product takes time and requires the right kind of investment: patient capital. So does the strategy deliver on this point?
The strategy does at least address the question, highlighting the opportunity offered by the "Long Term Investment for Technology and Science (LIFTS) initiative". This is actually a recycling of an announcement from the budget, and currently mostly seems to be a consultation. ๐Ÿ˜•
So, onto the next thing on my wishlist: people. The sector is short of people at all levels, from technicians to PhDs, via suitably trained sales and marketing folks. We're short of home grown talent and the immigration environment makes it hard to bring in people from overseas.
Here, recycling of preexisting initiatives starts to look like a theme within the strategy, with much of what's promised on training homegrown talent being things like continued support of the Higher Education Strategic Priorities Grant which among many other things supports...
... the higher costs of degrees in subjects like engineering which requires lots of practical training. The trouble is noone thought these strategies were enough to solve the skills shortages in engineering. A renewed & expanding semiconductor sector will make that problem worse.
Similarly on immigration, the strategy quotes existing schemes to help bring in overseas talent - like the Global Talent visa - but on the ground, we know these schemes aren't currently working to get the right people into our projects in a timely fashion.
So much for people (!) What about tools. The industry needs access to both design tools (fancy software) and fabrication tools (hardware for making prototypes and beyond). Is the strategy going to help us get them?
Again, there are hopeful signs. A major feasibility study is currently going on, led by folks at @IfMCambridge to scope out a National Semiconductor Infrastructure Initiative, which may provide a coordinated UK approach to accessing tools & facilities. We'll have to wait and see.
Another thing I like about the strategy is that it establishes a UK Semiconductor Advisory Panel, to make sure the government has access to expertise on these key materials. This is really important in maintaining institutional memory and strategic readiness for change.
If you've read this far, I'm impressed and I will tell you a little secret. One thing I really really like about the Strategy is this line... "We now have hotspots of expertise like the Fraunhofer Centre for Applied Photonics and Cambridge Centre for Gallium Nitride."
That's cause I'm Director of the Cambridge Centre for Gallium Nitride.

Flattery only gets you so far however. The strategy is a mixed bag. It's got worthwhile aspirations & there may be good stuff to come, but it's not bold enough on key issues, particularly the people pipeline.
If you've read this far, congratulations on an act of epic stamina!

Also, you might like to retweet the first tweet:

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