20 Sep 2023
by Russ Shaw CBE

Chips - Where are they now?

Guest blog from Russ Shaw CBE, Founder of Tech London and Global Tech Advocate. Part of techUK's #SuperchargeUKTech Week 2023.

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The semiconductors discussion in the UK during 2023 has been dominated by one main theme; how the government will approach this critical economic and geopolitical issue. 

After two years of speculation, the long-awaited National Semiconductor Strategy was delivered by the Government in May 2023. The strategy promised £1bn in investment, the creation of a Semiconductor Advisory Panel and more detail on manufacturing in the autumn. In August, the members of the Advisory Panel were announced, and it is made up of the great and the good of the chips industry – including leading manufacturers, researchers, and investors. The foundations for the growth of this critical sector in the UK have been set, but there’s plenty more work to be done.   

The success of the strategy does not lie solely in the hands of government – it’s now up to the industry to do its bit to help put the plans into practice and provide clear guidance on what is needed to succeed. 

That’s why we’ve formed the Chips Coalition. A broad group of tech leaders and organisations who care about the role semiconductors will play in the success of the UK tech sector – and indeed the wider economy – as well as their importance on the global stage.  

Last week, members of the Coalition – including techUK and Global Tech Advocates and TechWorks – participated in a major summit on semiconductors at CogX. These discussions demonstrated the role of chips as much more than just critical for the technology sector, it addressed their role in geopolitical issues and as a factor in one of the great challenges of our time; the climate crisis.  

Present at the event were some of the individuals and organisations leading the semiconductor industry in Taiwan – the world’s leading semiconductor hub. Taiwan produces over 60% of the world’s semiconductors and over 90% of the most advanced ones, making this nation a critical player in the semiconductor supply chain. However, Taiwan’s relationship with China means the global supply of chips is a significant geopolitical issue that is a concern for governments around the world.   

Naturally, given that semiconductors underpin most digital technologies, this could lead to a single point of failure for the global tech economy, which is compounded by the possibility of conflict between China and Taiwan.  

There is another, less well known, but equally important issue of global importance facing the semiconductor industry; it’s impact on the climate.  

Mei-Yu Chang, Director of NARLabs International Affairs Office, explained the sustainability challenges in semiconductor production to attendees at the Summit. The process is hugely energy intensive and consumes vast amounts of water. As the demand for ever more sophisticated chips grows, so will the emissions, making achieving net zero a huge challenge for the sector.   

Taiwan is searching for technological solutions to improve the sustainability of the industry and is seeking international collaboration to help it meet these challenges. This represents a significant opportunity for the UK and is why it was so exciting to welcome leading figures from the Taiwanese semiconductor industry to the UK. With our expertise in Research and Development, IP and design, the UK has the potential to become an important partner for Taiwan to help it meet these challenges. 

Semiconductors are fundamental to so much of the technology we current rely on – like our smartphones, cars and household items – but also to the tech of the future, whether its Quantum, AI or augmented and virtual reality.  As such, while they represent a huge opportunity, chips create a considerable challenge that goes well beyond the tech industry.  

We can’t just leave dealing with these issues to government; those of us in tech, academia and the business community should apply our collective minds to these big challenges and collaborate to find solutions.  

If this call to action is striking a chord with you, please do sign up to the Chips Coalition.   

Join the Chips Coalition

This group is the industry voice for semiconductors. It meets once a quarter, with a regular drumbeat of events and opportunities throughout the year.

Join here

 

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Authors

Russ Shaw CBE

Russ Shaw CBE

Founder of Tech London Advocates and Global Tech Advocates, Chips Coalition

Russ Shaw CBE is the founder of Tech London Advocates and Global Tech Advocates. He originally founded Tech London Advocates in 2013 to ensure an independent voice of the technology community was heard, but with a focus on the private sector.Since then he has been championing London as a global tech hub and campaigning to address some of the biggest challenges facing tech companies in the UK.Global Tech Advocates, founded in 2015, is now present in 31 hubs around the globe, with over 30,000 members.