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Pics (C) HUW JOHN, CARDIFF

World’s first compound semiconductor cluster hits the ground running

WITHIN its first year, 32 highly-skilled technicians and engineers have begun work with a further 10 vacancies in the process of being filled at the compound semiconductor wafer facility, backed by the Cardiff Capital Region (CCR) City Deal.

The high-tech facility at Newport is a key component of the world’s first compound semiconductor cluster based in Wales. The facility was secured by the CCR City Deal’s Wider Investment Fund for £38.5 million and has been leased by Wales’ leading tech firm, IQE plc, for cutting-edge compound semiconductor manufacturing and applications development. The new facility will become the hub of the regional technology cluster, CSconnected.

Since the historical signing in September 2017, IQE has accelerated its expansion plans at the new flagship site, recruiting and training for the first 32 new roles within the first 12 months and many more to follow.

The organisation, which has its headquarters in Cardiff, said that more than 75% of the roles had been recruited within the Cardiff Capital Region, coming from eight of ten council areas represented within the City Deal.

Kellie Beirne, director of the Cardiff Capital Region, said:

“It’s very gratifying to see that this investment is already generating significant, good quality employment that will strengthen the wider region and some of its most deprived areas.

“Compound semiconductor technologies represent a thriving sector that will support many youngsters within our region and boost their skills. It’s encouraging to see this innovative sector flourish in the heart of our region.”

Councillor Peter Fox, Leader of Monmouthshire County Council and Co-Lead for Business and Innovation, said: “It’s encouraging to see how the compound semiconductor foundry is flourishing. The creation of the world’s first compound semiconductor cluster in South-East Wales is exactly the kind of investment we are seeking to achieve for this region. The impact of this cutting-edge sector, its high-quality staff, and the wider benefits it brings should not be underestimated.”

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With construction at the new facility in full force and the first phase completed, the investment has also provided employment opportunities for construction firms based in the region. Twenty percent of all the construction workforce came from organisations based in Rhondda Cynon Taf.

Dr Drew Nelson, CEO of Cardiff headquartered IQE, said:

“Compound Semiconductor technologies are at the heart of almost all major industrial sectors today, and will be essential to the realisation of most new technologies of the future such as 5G, autonomous drive vehicles and the Internet of Things (IoT). Our vision is to create the Worlds first End to end Compound Semiconductor cluster in South Wales, and in doing so set the foundations for many high tech supply chains to all major industrial sectors globally.

“Growing global demand for compound semiconductor enabled technologies has led to our significant investment in capital and people. When fully operational, we expect to employ up to 500 people at the Newport facility.

“Throughout its first year, the Newport semiconductor site has provided employment for an average of 84 construction workers every week.

“Around three quarters of that work has gone to firms either based, or with an office in, the Cardiff Capital Region, supporting regional workforces.”

With facilities at the flagship site in place, the first ten production tools have been installed with capacity in place for the next ten. The first product samples have already shipped from the foundry site.

A £50M investment in the Compound Semiconductor Applications Catapult by Innovate UK has also been confirmed as part of the CSconnected cluster, which will bring with it around 90 jobs and support research and development across the compound semiconductor sector.  Work will begin on installing the Catapult facility in the coming weeks.

The potential of this collaboration has been widely recognised. The project won both the Constructing Excellence in Wales Integration & Collaborative Working Award and Insider’s ‘Made in Wales’ Collaboration Award.

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