On 19 May 2023 the Government published the long-awaited National Semiconductor Strategy. This sets out a twenty-year plan to secure the UK’s position on design, research, and advanced chip manufacturing, with up to £200 million committed over 2023-25 and a total of up to £1 billion in the next decade to support its delivery.

The strategy sets out three key objectives to secure the UK’s advantage in the semiconductors sector: grow the domestic sector, mitigate the risk of supply chain disruptions, and protect national security. It will be overseen by a new UK Semiconductor Advisory Panel (UK SAP), composed of representatives from industry, government, and academia, and it is accompanied by a new technology partnership with Japan focused on improvising supply chain resilience, skills exchanges, and R&D cooperation.

The initial funding of up to £200 million over the years 2023-25 will help deliver a new National Semiconductor Infrastructure Initiative and a specialist incubator pilot for semiconductor startups. Focus will be given to developing the UK’s existing strategic advantage in semiconductor design and IP, compound semiconductors, and our overarching R&D ecosystem. Additionally, further details are expected in the autumn on investment support for the semiconductor manufacturing sector.

The commitment to strengthen the UK’s semiconductor industry is essential for the UK’s aerospace, defence, security, and space sectors, as our industries rely heavily on semiconductor technology. This tech underpins a vast range of applications, from aviation communication systems to cyber-security solutions. However, the strategy must ensure that the UK’s defence and security sectors’ requirements for a sustainable supply of semiconductors is specially protected through securing the supply chain against national security risks.

There are important issues that need to be addressed to ensure that the National Semiconductor Strategy is successful. The £1 billion investment that has been committed to over the next decade is a good start but considering the rapid pace of technological development and other major international initiatives underway such as the EU Chips Act and the US CHIPS and Science Act, it is possible that further support may be required in due course to drive the profound change needed.

Alongside this, the new UK SAP must make its central mission the development of a more collaborative ecosystem between industry and academia. This collaboration is essential for ensuring that the UK can attract and retain the best semiconductor talent, but industry-specific needs and concerns must receive full attention.

The National Semiconductor Strategy is a forward-thinking and positive development. However, its implementation and results will need to be closely scrutinised to ensure it delivers its promised benefits, being prepared to adapt the strategy as the global semiconductor market changes. The UK aerospace, defence, security, and space sectors are major contributors to our national security and prosperity and the Government must ensure that our sectors have the semiconductors they need to continue to thrive and grow.