EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Compound Semiconductor Manufacturing

Lead Research Organisation: Cardiff University


TOPIC: "Semiconductors" are often synonymous with "Silicon Chips". After all Silicon supported computing technologies in the 20th century. But Silicon is reaching fundamental limits and already many of the technologies we now take for granted are only possible because of Compound Semiconductors (CS). These technologies include The Internet, Smart Phones, GPS and Energy efficient LED lighting!

CSs are also at the heart of most of the new technologies expected in the next few years including 5G wireless, ultra-high speed optical fibre connectivity, LIDAR for autonomous vehicles, high voltage switching for electric vehicles, the IoT and high capacity data storage.

To date CSs are made in relatively small quantities using fairly bespoke manufacturing and manufacturers have had to put together functions by assembling discrete devices. But this is expensive and for many of the new applications integration is needed along the lines of the Silicon Integrated Chip.

CDT research will involve: the science of large scale CS manufacturing (e.g. materials combinations to minimise wafer bow, new fabrication processes for non-flat surfaces); manufacturing integrated CS on Silicon and in applying the manufacturing approaches of Silicon to CS. The latter includes using generic processes and generic building blocks and applying statistical process control. By applying these approaches students will address and invent new ways to exploit the highly advantageous electronic, magnetic, optical and power handling properties of CSs and generate novel integrated functionality for sensing, data processing and communication.

NEED: This CDT is a critical part of the strategic development of a CS Cluster supporting activity throughout the UK. It is part of the development of a wider training portfolio including apprenticeships and CPD activities, to train and upskill the CS workforce.

Evidence of the critical need for a CDT, has been identified in a survey and analysis conducted by UK Electronics Skills Foundation highlighting the specific skills required in this rapidly growing high technology industrial sector.

"We are looking for PhD level skills plus industry experience. We don't have the time to train up new staff."

"There are no 'perfect employees' for CS companies, as this is effectively a new area. Staff, including those with PhDs, either have silicon skills and need CS-specific training, or have CS skills and need training in volume tools and processes, either in the cleanroom or in packaging." - quotes from CS Skills Survey - Report UKESF July 2018.

We have worked with the CSA Catapult utilising the skills need they have identified as well as companies across the spectrum of CS activities and are confident of the absorptive capacity: the expected PhD level jobs increase for the existing cluster companies alone would employ all the students and the CDT will support many more companies and academic institutions.

APPROACH: a 1+3 programme where Year 1 is based in Cardiff, with provision via taught lectures using university approved level 7 modules and transferable skills training, hands on and in-depth practical training and workshop material supplied by University and Industry Partner staff.

A dedicated nursery clean room to allow rapid practical progress, learning from peer group activity and then an industry facing environment with co-location with industry staff and manufacturing scale equipment, where they will learn the future CS manufacturing skills. This will maximise cross fertilisation of ideas, techniques and approach and maximise the potential for exploitation.

Y2-Y4 consist of an in depth PhD project, co-created with industry and hosted at one of the 4 universities, and specialised whole cohort training and events, including communication, responsible innovation, entrepreneurship, co-innovation techniques and innovative outreach.

Planned Impact

Through our students, following consideration of the consequences of their research and appropriate action informed by their Responsible Innovation training, impact will fall into one of 3 strands:


As a Key Enabling Technology, Compound Semiconductors (CS) bring benefit to society in general through developing the connected society, e.g. the 5G network, the smart phones that use it, satellite communications systems and data server infrastructure;

they contribute to reducing our carbon footprint through e.g. photovoltaics, new energy efficient lighting, and, power electronics for the next generation of electric vehicles.

CS sensor technology is at the heart of early medical diagnosis and CS based light sources are essential for both cosmetic treatments, such as hair removal, and life-saving treatments such as Photodynamic Therapy.

CS based magnetic sensors are being developed for security screening and next generation secure communication.

In total these technologies support our connected world, our health, our security and the environment.

ECONOMIC: The global market for CS is large, currently worth around $33.7Bn, with a compound annual growth rate of 17.3%.

The vision of the CS cluster was first defined in 2015, to build on existing academic and industrial assets, capability and manufacturing excellence to create Europe's 5th Semiconductor Cluster and the first in the world dedicated to Compound Semiconductor Technologies. To date the cluster has secured commitments of >£500M private and public investment with a suite of innovation assets and critical manufacturing infrastructure and a purpose to drive UK growth in the CS sector.

It is absolutely critical to recognise that the formation of clusters need ongoing nurturing, cross fertilisation of people and ideas and most importantly the supply of skilled staff to support rapid growth in order to reach critical mass for sustainability. The predicted PhD level jobs increase in just the current local cluster companies would more than use all of the minimum underwritten CDT output over the next 5 years, and we need to do much more. Our CDT is essential to support the development of key elements of the rapidly emerging Compound Semiconductor Cluster and drive new linkages within the wider UK industrial supply chain. Thus addressing the issue of bringing manufacturing supply chains back to the UK - a key element of the Government's Industrial Strategy.

The EPSRC CS roadmap document , June 2012, identified a concern that the UK CS Research Community is missing an exploitation link that can provide a route to impact and economic leverage EPSRC's >£20M pa CS research investment. Many technological solutions work well in the research laboratory or as one-off demonstrators but fail to translate to industrial production or commercial success. The CDT will directly address this issue by changing the mind-set of the next generation of researchers so that they start from solutions that allow rapid translation to production.


It is critical that the public and our politicians understand the excellence and importance of CS manufacturing in the UK. Our CDT cohort will undergo training in elevator pitches and media interactions to influence decision makers and will develop videos explaining how Compound Semiconductors are made and what they can do. They will inform a diverse set of people using a range of innovative formats such as performance and theatre production skills.

A crucial part of the people pipeline, which will support our future manufacturing excellence, is the motivation of our young people. Our CDT cohort will develop a Schools programme and an Undergraduate programme.

This will ensure we attract the very best and widest range of applicants and, most importantly, inform and excite the next generation about the opportunities that CS technology and Manufacturing offers them.


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