Funding for electric vehicle semiconductor research and equipment


£16.6 million of Innovate UK funding has been announced to give semiconductor researchers and businesses access to new equipment to test and make chips for use in electric vehicles and manufacturing equipment.

£14 million of the funding is targeted particularly at semiconductors used in “power electronics”, which is where chips convert and control power in energy intensive machines, including electric vehicles and manufacturing equipment.

The new tools, based predominantly in Newcastle and Strathclyde, will help researchers and businesses of all sizes test applications of new innovations in power electronics and improve their semiconductor ‘packaging’ processes. This involves adding complex casing to silicon wafers so they can interact with the devices they are designed to process information for.

The investment comes as part of the UK’s Semiconductor Strategy, which identified new ways of packaging and testing chips as a key area to drive performance improvements in semiconductors.

Innovations in advanced packaging will help reduce the power needed to run semiconductors by improving their performance in demanding applications – such as data centres and gaming – while also making sure chips can cool down more effectively in hot environments, such as manufacturing.

Technology Minister Saqib Bhatti said: "New innovations in the way we package up semiconductors have the potential to transform whole industries and vastly improve consumer devices, all while driving long-term economic growth.

"This investment in open-access technology will make sure British researchers have the tools they need to rapidly turn semiconductor science into business reality, all while making hugely energy intensive sectors more sustainable."

The open-access tools will cover a range of processes involved with designing and testing these semiconductors, including ‘slicing’ silicon wafers into smaller chips and bonding complex materials together to make chips.

Funding will also be used to help manufacturers improve the technology used to automate assembly processes, as well as helping build and test ‘drives’ which are pivotal in the conversion of energy into motion in electric vehicles, manufacturing equipment and more.

Mike Biddle, Executive Director, Net Zero at Innovate UK, said: "Innovate UK’s investment into supply chains for Power Electronics, Machines and Drives shows the importance of these technologies to the UK economy and the global race to net zero.

"It is exciting to see the breadth of activity in semiconductor packaging as well as electric machine validation and manufacturing. The majority of this investment is strategically aligned with the National Semiconductor Strategy and helps grow the high-value post-wafer capabilities within the UK."