Tech leaders call on UK government to deliver semiconductor strategy

In a letter to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, tech leaders have asked the government to prepare and publish the UK’s semiconductor strategy as a matter of urgency

According to The Times, signatories — including Acorn Computers founder Hermann Hauser, NMI network director Jillian Hughes, and industry groups TechUK and Global Tech Advocates — have warned that hesitation to deliver a strategy for UK semiconductor operations puts the country’s tech sector standing globally at risk.

“Semiconductors are the vital components that power our lives every day. Britain has traditionally been a world leader in the field — home to world-leading chip design companies and leaders in the compound semiconductor segment,” the letter stated.

“Confidence in the government’s ability to address the vital importance of the industry is steadily declining with each month of inaction.”

Responding to pandemic challenges

A global semiconductor shortage brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic caused widespread depletion of manufacturing and resources.

Since then, the US has put $50bn behind its microchip operations, and the European Union has invested over €43bn with the aim to double global semiconductor market share to 20 percent by 2030.

The letter added: “The issue bears relevance to geopolitical affairs, too. Taiwan produces over 90 per cent of the world’s advanced chips and has commanded significant influence as the most fruitful manufacturer of semiconductors.

“Given this nation is at the centre of tensions between China and the West, it is paramount that global dependence on Taiwan is addressed.”

Additionally, Russ Shaw CBE, founder of Tech London Advocates & Global Tech Advocates commented: “In the past, the Prime Minister has pledged to make Britain a technology superpower – now, the tech industry needs him to act decisively on one of the greatest threats to the sector’s growth and outline the future of the UK’s semiconductor industry.

“The failure of the UK to reach its potential in this field to date has been brought sharply into focus by the progress of others – from the construction of major semiconductor production plants in India to the passing of the Chips Act in both the EU and US. Britain’s status as a leading tech ecosystem is at stake.

“This open letter and the publication of techUK’s ‘A UK Plan for Chips’ emphasises the cross-industry consensus that action on the semiconductor issue cannot wait any longer. It is now the Prime Minister’s turn to demonstrate his pro-tech credentials and take action.”

Separate to the letter, TechUK set out a five-point plan for what the body would like the UK semiconductor strategy to include, asking for focus on the UK’s design and intellectual property strengths, as well as encouraging investment and addressing skills gaps.

In response to calls for government action, a Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport spokesperson said: “Our strategy will be published as soon as possible. We are reviewing our domestic capabilities to develop a new semiconductor strategy which will grow the sector further and make sure our supply chains remain resilient.”


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Aaron Hurst

Aaron Hurst is Information Age's senior reporter, providing news and features around the hottest trends across the tech industry.