Welsh compound-semi chip foundry planned

July 22, 2015 // By Peter Clarke
A chip foundry able to run a variety of compound semiconductor processes is being planned to sit alongside a compound semiconductor applied research venture being formed by Cardiff University (Wales, UK) and wafer supplier IQE plc.

A compound semiconductor foundry would address smaller volumes and be much lower cost to construct than a silicon equivalent and would probably work with 200 mm-diameter and smaller wafers, according to Chris Meadows, open innovation director at IQE. But it would meet national and European Union objectives of increasing the commercialisation of European research while retaining the manufacturing of those circuits.

The foundry would operate in parallel with a joint venture research body that is being created by Cardiff University and IQE.

The not-yet-named joint venture could be called something like the Compound Semiconductor Research Foundation and is seen as a key element within a compound semiconductor cluster centered in Wales.

The venture, which is due to start on August 1, 2015, will be jointly owned and jointly controlled by Cardiff University and IQE. IQE is contributing equipment with a market value of £12 million (about $19 million), which is being matched by a cash contribution from Cardiff University. IQE will also license certain intellectual property to the JV.

The joint venture research body will look to Belgium's IMEC and Germany's Fraunhofer Institutes for its business model, according to Meadows, in that it is chartered with taking university-based research closer to commercialisation and to be a focus for contract research and pre-competitive collaboration between commercial participants in the compound semiconductor sector.

"IQE is starting by assigning 50 or 60 people to work at the joint venture and then sub-contracting them to perform work for IQE. So yes the JV is taking on contract research as part of the business model," said Meadows.

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