Artificial Intelligence

Funding boost for chips that could help to fuel AI advancements

7th February 2024
Paige West

New funding and support has been unveiled to back British scientists working on chip development, which could power advancements in AI and underpin the technologies needed to reach net zero.

To mark the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology's first anniversary, two new research hubs in Southampton and Bristol have received funding to enhance research in silicon photonics and compound semiconductors.

Semiconductors play a crucial role in nearly every electrical device globally, from mobile phones to medical equipment. They are fundamental to future technologies in net zero, AI, and quantum and are increasingly recognised as strategically significant on a global scale.

During his visit to the Southampton centre, the Minister for Tech, and the Digital Economy, Saqib Bhatti, stated: "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.”

Each site, with an investment of £11 million, will facilitate the translation of scientific research into business opportunities. They will support promising research and projects, providing researchers with access to leading-edge prototyping technology, which is essential for testing complex designs, and helping early-stage companies through training, workshops, and vital industry contacts to ensure readiness for market launch.

The ‘Cornerstone’ Information and Knowledge Centre in Southampton will expand on the University's expertise in silicon photonics, an innovative semiconductor research area using light to transmit information, resulting in much faster chips than traditional semiconductors.

Professor Graham Reed, a leading silicon photonics researcher who will head the Cornerstone facility, said: “The CORNERSTONE IKC 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.”

An additional £4.8 million in funding for 11 semiconductor skills projects nationwide aims to enhance talent across all educational levels, from school to university and beyond. This initiative will not only increase awareness of the semiconductor industry but also address significant gaps in the UK's workforce talent and training framework.

These centres will contribute to the objectives of the government’s £1bn National Semiconductor Strategy, a 20-year plan that outlines how the government will promote the UK's strengths and skills in design, R&D, and compound semiconductors.

This investment demonstrates the government's dedication to collaborating with the industry to support the semiconductor sector and achieve the National Semiconductor Strategy's goals, building on the UK's strengths to expand the sector.

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