Cardiff Capital Region Cabinet members visit semiconductor foundry to see City Deal investment

(L-R) Cllr Andrew Morgan, Leader of RCT, Dr Drew Nelson, founder and CEO of IQE , and Sam Evans, Director of External Affairs at Newport Wafer Fab. Pics (C) Huw John, Cardiff.

Almost a year after the historic signing to support the world’s first compound semiconductor cluster in South-East Wales, Cardiff Capital Region Cabinet members were this week shown how the City Deal funding has been invested.

The 10 council leaders of the CCR held one of their regular formal meetings at Newport Wafer Fab (NWF) where they also learnt about the compound semiconductor Foundry in Newport – CS Connected – and the opportunities it will present for the South-East Wales region, and how their investment has been used. Afterwards, a tour of the nearby Foundry showed the progress that has been made.

Last May, the Regional Cabinet agreed to contribute £38.5 million from the CCR City Deal’s Wider Investment Fund towards the establishment by IQE plc of a major, cutting edge facility, as an anchor in the region for high end production of compound semiconductors.

The signing was the first such investment since the £1.2 billion CCR City Deal programme was formally signed on March 1, 2017.

The aim is to support the development of CS Connected – a compound semiconductor industrial cluster in the region – with the potential to leverage £375m of private sector investment, create up to 2,000 high skilled jobs, return the investment for use on other regional schemes, and create hundreds more jobs in the wider supply chain cluster.

Since the signing, IQE has experienced considerable growth and is already recruiting for more than 50 roles at the Newport site, signifying the positive growth of the Compound Semiconductor cluster in the region.

Dr Drew Nelson, founder and CEO of IQE plc, said: “Compound semiconductors are rapidly defining 21st century technologies, and Wales is uniquely positioned to be centre stage of this global, high-tech industry sector. The dedicated compound semiconductor facility between Cardiff and Newport will act as a key component of the burgeoning cluster that is already cementing Wales’ reputation for technology leadership. The initiative is a shining example of what can be achieved through collaboration.

“The ten councils that form the Cardiff Capital Region along with the Welsh and UK governments, have worked closely with academic institutes and industry to build an innovation infrastructure that will support and nurture the region as a true global player in new and emerging technologies. The facility will become the base for a number of compound semiconductor related activities, including IQE, where we expect to rapidly expand our production capacity to meet increasing demand for our technology.”

Newport Wafer Fab is the chip Foundry of the CS Cluster, providing a fast, agile semiconductor production service in a high technology campus, and is the UK’s largest semiconductor centre.

Sam Evans, Director of External Affairs said: “The CS connected companies will be critical to CCR’s macro economy ambitions. The Capital Region’s strategic support is a key component in establishing SE Wales as the world’s first compound semiconductor cluster.

“This CS technology will power many of the next generation advances such as 5G and the IoT (internet of things). We are delighted to be hosting the CCR Cabinet meeting at Newport Wafer.”

Councillor Andrew Morgan, Chair of the CCR Regional Cabinet and Leader of Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council, said: “The objective of the original commitment was to create a complete compound semiconductor eco-system in South Wales to take advantage of the growing prominence of compound semiconductor technologies and visiting Newport Wafer Fab and the new Foundry in Newport really demonstrated the positive steps forward the investment and collaboration are making.”

Councillor Peter Fox, Leader of Monmouthshire County Council, and Deputy Chair of the CCR City Deal Regional Cabinet, said: “The opportunity the investment creates, to help the establishment of the world’s first compound semiconductor cluster in South East Wales, should not be underestimated. It has the potential to place our region at the heart of this cutting-edge sector and will require the development and integration of a compound semiconductor supply chain in South Wales, with the economic and social benefits that will bring.”

Councillor Anthony Hunt, Leader of Torfaen County Borough Council and Co-leader on CCR City Deal’s business and innovation portfolio, said: ““The benefits of clusters are well understood, with Silicon Valley in the US being a prime example. Indeed, there are semiconductor clusters across Europe, namely around Eindhoven, Dresden, Leuven and Grenoble. However, these are based on silicon technologies, hence this is a unique opportunity for Wales to establish the world’s first compound semiconductor cluster and establish ourselves at the forefront of compound semiconductor technology globally.”

The CCR City Deal is set to unlock significant economic growth across the CCR, which includes the ten local authorities of Blaenau Gwent, Bridgend, Caerphilly, Cardiff, Merthyr Tydfil, Monmouthshire, Newport, Rhondda Cynon Taff, Torfaen and Vale of Glamorgan.

The aims of the CCR City Deal are to create jobs and boost economic prosperity by improving productivity, tackle worklessness, build on foundations of innovation, invest in physical and digital infrastructure, provide support for business, and ensure that any economic benefits generated as a result are felt across the region.