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Welsh silicon wafer plant review highlights security fears

Boris Johnson joins National Security Adviser Sir Stephen Lovegrove this month Welsh silicon wafer manufacturer By a company owned by China.

One of Lovegrove’s agents has already conducted an extensive review of the acquisition of Newport Wafer Fab by Nexperia, a Dutch-based company owned by China and already operating a similar facility in Manchester. I submitted a clean health bill.

As a result, Secretary-General Kwasi Kwaten said in May that he had no plans to intervene.

The Prime Minister’s U-turn reflects the Jitter in Downing Street about China, Britain’s role in the global semiconductor industry, and the broader issue of domestic resilience.

When investigating the proposed sale of Cambridge-based semiconductor and software design company Arm to Nvidia in Silicon Valley, the long-term strategic importance of chip technology, which is already on the agenda of the UK government, is the long-term strategic importance of technology and automotive. It has become a bigger focus as the industry continues to face. Confusion due to a global chip shortage.

“What different nation-states need is some core-critical technology or core-critical customers to leverage to become an important part of their global supply chain,” said Nigel Toon, CEO. Says. Graphcore, The UK’s most prominent chip start-up.

Many in the tech industry aren’t discussing the future of Arm, which is widely seen as one of the UK, but the government’s future for a small facility that is reportedly worth less than $ 100 million in South Wales. I’m confused about why it’s getting attention. The multi-billion dollar investment needed to attract “Crown Jewel” tech companies or semiconductor makers such as Intel to the UK.

Since the early 1980s, Newport Wafer Fab has been manufacturing silicon wafers, the framework for building processors, in a variety of forms, with 450 employees. Its low-grade wafers are far from those available in the world’s largest and most sophisticated chip makers, and because there is no such facility in the UK, they are shipped overseas to countries such as China and Malaysia for chips. Become.

“We’re not talking about cutting edge here,” said Wayne Lam, semiconductor analyst at CCS Insight. Given that similar wafer technology is “ready available” in China, Newport’s technology is “not worth the fight,” he added. “This is a matter of national pride, rather than something that could potentially endanger national security.”

Newport Fab factory in Wales. Nexperia, a Chinese-owned Dutch-based company, said it “protected” the role of factories in the UK chip industry.

Still, concerns have been raised by people, including former Chief Executive Officer of the National Cyber ​​Security Center (NCSC), Ciaran Martin. Told the Telegraph The semiconductor manufacturing was a “primary strategic problem”.

In a recent House of Commons debate, Newport’s role as a partner at Cardiff University in the design of defense 5G radar systems put the company in a “national security framework,” said Tom Tugendart, chairman of the House of Commons Foreign Relations Selection Committee. I’ll put it in. ”

Downing Street didn’t say why it triggered the new review. However, a spokeswoman added, “Don’t hesitate to take further action if necessary.”

Nexperia said it would respond to a government investigation, but its listed parent company, Wingtech, rejected the proposal to be a state-owned company in China. He said he had taken control of Newport only after the plant suffered financial difficulties earlier this year and promised to invest between $ 40 million and $ 45 million over the next 12 months to increase production capacity.

“Contrary to media and parliamentary reports, Nexperia has actually protected Newport Fab’s role in the UK semiconductor industry,” the company said.

Johnson took a two-sided approach to Beijing for months, with a cautious attitude to see the expulsion of Chinese telecommunications company Huawei and warm words about the need to continue to attract China’s trade and investment. It shook between.

Under the Enterprise Act of 2002, which continues to control acquisitions, companies must have annual sales of over £ 70m or have a specific market share in order to be “called” for reasons such as national security. there is. Neither applies to Newport.

The new regime set by recent national security and investment legislation will create much lower thresholds for interventions that can be carried out retroactively from 2022.

In the meantime, authorities are considering policies for the wider semiconductor sector, following “increasing geopolitical behavior that causes turmoil,” according to a Whitehall document seen by the Financial Times.

The Cultural Media sector is concerned that the increase in state-level intervention in the UK’s semiconductor manufacturing sector is causing a “challenge to the UK’s future competitiveness.”

Authorities have launched a review to ensure a reliable and reliable semiconductor supply for the UK to seize opportunities in potential regions to protect the country from potential security risks. did.

Building a globally competitive semiconductor manufacturing facility in the UK requires tens of billions of dollars in investment.

Even if the government is willing to offer billions of dollars incentives like Intel has Ask the EU To build a series of new chip factories on the continent, British tech executives are skeptical that the Newport factory could form the basis for such a company.

“Can you change that? [business] NS Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company?? Given the $ 1 trillion and non-existent pile of expertise, one semiconductor industry executive reflects a “complete government-level misunderstanding” about the technical and logistical complexity of chip supply. He added that he was doing it.

Instead, the UK Next generation Stuart Chapman, a technology investor in Draper Esprit, a venture company such as Graphcore, an AI chip maker invested by Draper, is a deep tech company.

Hermann Hauser, a veteran Cambridge tech investor who led the campaign against the proposed sale of the arm, has not issued such a warning about Newport. He told FT that in some circumstances, investments from the United States and China in British technology could be beneficial.

“There are only three potential technology sovereignty regions in the world: the United States, China, and Europe,” Hauser said. “In the case of semiconductors, this means the UK will participate in a € 145 billion initiative to establish a semi-independent European capacity.”

Welsh silicon wafer plant review highlights security fears Source link Welsh silicon wafer plant review highlights security fears

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