ChipStart UK: investors gather in Glasgow to see top semiconductor startups

26th January 2024
Kristian McCann

Tens of investors, startups heads and representatives of government and multinational companies converged on the University of Glasgow on the 25th January for ChipStart UK’s early-stage semiconductor incubator. 

The day highlighted the UK’s semiconductor strategy and placed startups and investors together to facilitate that strategy.

“Travelling Europe, seeing their efforts in semiconductors with the European Chips Act, made me realise we are way ahead of them,” said leader of the day’s event Sean Redmond of SiliconCatalyst.

SiliconCatalyst works with ChipStart UK, a two-year pilot program backed by £1.3 million of British government funding, to provide early-stage companies involved in the design of semiconductors with the technical and commercial help they need to bring new products to market. Q1 of 2024 saw ChipStart UK bring along to the event a cohort of 10 startups they’re supporting.

Picking The University of Glasgow for the first of this year’s event, the city is one of three that was selected as a ‘tech accelerator’ in the UK government’s levelling up scheme. VP of the university Chris Pearce stressed to attendees how this university, and Scotland in general, is the perfect place for investing in semiconductor development, with the university having spawned two prestigious spinouts: the James Watt Fabrication Centre and Kelvin Nanotechnology.

Although much maligned over delays, the UK government’s semiconductor strategy, finally published in May 2023, has hit the ground running with work on initiatives such as this. Focusing on key areas, like IP and design, the UK strategy is playing to it current strengths in the field, Eva Ignatuschtschenko, Joint Head of the Semiconductor Branch at the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology told attendees. “We’re not trying to compete with other strategies that have been publish by the likes of the US or Japan,” Ignatuschtschenko explained.

Moving through the day, attendees were shown what support from big companies was available for these startups to help them grow to spin outs and more, with technology provider of processor IP Arm presenting their Academic Program & Arm Flexible Access for startups, which allows them the software to develop their chip’s architecture.

Pitching began and the 10 startups – including one called mint neuro, which is aiming to implement semiconductors to alleviate neurological issues - were given a slot to explain their journey, achievements and hopefully woe investors to get onboard.

Yet, as previous speakers throughout the day warned, don’t get carried away with investment. With ChipStart UK focusing as much on guiding startups as it is building them for buyout, the event saw a number of former startup speakers or venture capitalists offer their experience as advice. Bill Yost of Old College Capital warned of the issue of over raising and Founder and CEO weeteq Taner Dosluoglu explained how his previous startup failed over issues such as single sourcing funding.

The next ChipStart UK is earmarked for March and will be held in one of the other two tech accelerator areas of Manchester or the West Midlands.

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