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Semiconductors: a strategic industry ripe for UK leadership

9th September 2021
Beatrice O'Flaherty

Imagination Technologies recently published its innovation manifesto, titled 'The UK’s Innovation Future'. At a critical juncture in the UK’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, the manifesto underscores the strategic importance of semiconductors to the UK’s future competitiveness and prosperity.

It sets out a series of recommendations for a more innovative UK based on a clear overarching vision, targeted investment and incentives, and government working effectively in partnership with business.

Imagination invests heavily in R&D and talent, with over 700 of the company’s 850 staff directly engaged in R&D activity. This is demonstrated by Imagination’s consistently high ranking among UK businesses in terms of both patents filed and granted, ranking 12th and 11th respectively. Through the licensing of its IP to customers, Imagination also unlocks innovation in a range of sectors and applications including automotive, gaming, the IoT, virtual and augmented reality, artificial intelligence, and mobile devices.

The manifesto notes growing recognition among policymakers of the strategic importance of semiconductors and calls on the government to build on the UK’s existing strengths in chip design and innovation. More broadly it argues that innovation - in semiconductors and beyond - will ultimately determine whether the UK prevails or falls behind in the global race for tech leadership, welcoming the government’s recently published Innovation Strategy as first step in achieving this.

The manifesto concludes with a set of recommendations for creating a more innovative UK, including that:

  • Government should provide an overarching vision to direct activity towards a common purpose, with support targeted at areas where the UK already has a competitive advantage;
  • Support for the British semiconductor sector should focus on innovation and design, where the UK already has a competitive advantage, rather than manufacturing. This should include both public funding for semiconductor research and greater incentives for companies;
  • Public investment and procurement should be used to drive innovation where private investment is absent, with a focus on pre-commercialisation and early-stage technologies. Investment should promote national capabilities, not national champions;
  • Government should use trade policy to encourage the open and fair licensing of technology and widen access to global supply chains, while challenging unfair market practices abroad that disadvantage UK innovators;
  • Innovation should serve the greater good and be used to tackle many of the interrelated challenges facing the UK, from levelling up the regions to achieving net zero;

Tim Mamtora, Chief of Innovation, said: “As Chief of Innovation at one of the UK’s most innovative businesses, I’m proud of the manifesto Imagination Technologies has put forward – ten recommendations that we believe the UK should follow to unlock its full innovative potential. We are optimistic about the UK’s future trajectory. With support from the Innovation Strategy and the Chancellor’s Plan for Growth, we are confident in our ability to continue creating world-leading technology that will help the UK respond to the challenges of tomorrow.”

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