Drew Nelson, the chief executive of IQE, one of Britain’s few semiconductor manufacturers, says the UK’s lack of production capacity leaves it exposed. “If the UK has to rely on foreign countries, which may or may not be friendly in the future, for all of its semiconductor hardware, it is going to be in a strategically extremely weak position,” he says.
“It’s an absolute tragedy because 30 years ago, when TSMC was founded, the UK led in the manufacture of silicon chips.The Government hasn’t really grasped the importance of investment in sovereign capabilities, in its own semiconductor industry.”
Nelson says the UK’s ability to produce its own chips should be a matter of national importance. The idle car factories and laptop shortages caused by the current shortage may well be seen as evidence of that.
“All your money are belong to us”
A new silicon fab costs of the order of £5 billion. The UK doesn’t use enough chips of any one kind to make domestic production sensible – exports would have to happen to make a line economic. And if exports have to happen then we’re back to being reliant upon the rest of the world, aren’t we?