Welsh chip factory sale puts taxpayer-backed projects worth £20m at risk

More than £20m of taxpayer-backed expertise projects are at risk after the Government pulled funding from the Welsh microchip plant now underneath Chinese possession.

Newport Wafer Fab, Britain’s greatest microchip facility, was concerned in 4 projects that had utilized for public assist, in accordance with sources near the company.

Ministers not too long ago froze grants to the company from UK Research and Innovation after it was offered to Nexperia, a Dutch expertise company owned by China’s Wingtech. 

Boris Johnson not too long ago referred the deal to Sir Stephen Lovegrove, the nationwide safety adviser, with the Government saying it won’t hesitate to dam it whether it is deemed a safety concern.

It is now feared that the sale might create a knock-on impact on a hub of semiconductor corporations in south Wales, the place about 1,500 persons are employed.

The 4 analysis purposes would have concerned £20.4m in complete funding from the Government and firms concerned. They included a project to develop photovoltaic cells for solar-powered satellites, and to develop superior energy electronics modules for electrical vehicles.

Drew Nelson, Newport Wafer Fab’s chairman who offered the company to Nexperia, is planning to make use of proceeds from the £65m sale to arrange a by-product plant in the identical space, which might renew among the projects.

However, it’s unclear how lengthy the method will take or if Mr Nelson will safe the funding for the brand new factory.

Chris Meadows of CS Connected, a analysis organisation aiming to foster a high-tech cluster of corporations and universities centered on superior semiconductors within the space, mentioned dropping entry to the factory might have a wider affect.

Newport Wafer Fab produces the silicon wafers that digital circuits are printed onto, however underneath Mr Nelson had outlined plans to broaden into compound semiconductors – a complicated expertise that proponents say might imply extra highly effective chips. 

Backers of the South Wales cluster has mentioned it expects to finally make use of some 5,000 individuals.

“The biggest challenge is that we potentially lose one of the components of the cluster,” Mr Meadows mentioned. “It raises a question about whether the open access will still exist for the chip fabrication part of the process.”

This week it emerged that Newport Wafer Fab had been concerned in additional than a dozen publicly-backed projects, together with a collaboration with defence corporations.

Ruth Jones, the MP for Newport West, has requested the Government to stipulate a deadline for reviewing the deal. “It’s important that we know what the timescales are, because the workers want job security,” she mentioned. 

Nexperia has mentioned it should defend the 450 jobs at the plant.

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