TI shrinks process to 0.18-micron at Dallas fab
The electronics industry lives or dies by its innovation and technology. The business climate has been difficult in recent years, with some industry specialists even asking themselves if UK electronics has a future.
I believe that the answer is yes. But success is not guaranteed – it has to be worked for.
The Government’s Electronics Innovation and Growth Team (EIGT) Team has now published its report, Electronics 2015 – Making a Visible Difference, which makes a full and frank assessment of the challenges facing the sector.
It reveals that despite impacting on nearly every sector of the economy, the UK electronics industry remains invisible. It is fragmented and poorly networked, and its important contribution to the UK economy is often undervalued and misunderstood.
But the report also provides some cause for optimism. It highlights the sector’s many strengths and underscores the importance of using innovation and technology to build on them. To this end, the Government has made electronics one of our priority sector teams.
Trade liberalisation and a rapid fall in communication and transport costs mean that the UK has increasingly to compete against countries, such as China and South Korea, with significantly lower labour costs and well-educated labour forces.
In order to meet these challenges we must innovate to develop new technological processes, more inspirational leadership, stronger management skills and a highly skilled, highly motivated workforce working in new and efficient ways.
We must follow the example being set by firms such as the UK microprocessor design firm ARM Holdings, which was voted Employer of the Year in the 2003 National Business Awards.
The skills gap in electronics is a serious issue. We recognise that, and are working closely with the Sector Skills Council for the electronics industry to address it by producing a Sector Skills Agreement for electronics.
The agreement, which should be ready in early 2005 will monitor trends in labour, skills and productivity in the sector and ensure that training is planned and funded accordingly.
We are also working hard to boost the level of innovation in the industry. To this end, initiatives like the £320m DTI Technology Programme will help to provide a real boost for the electronics community. And we are nurturing the essential relationship between universities and industry by developing Knowledge Transfer Networks and Knowledge Transfer Partnerships, and providing Collaborative Research and Development grants to fund collaborative R&D projects between businesses and universities.
Many electronics companies will also have benefited from the introduction of R&D tax credits. These credits were designed to encourage more firms, and particularly SMEs to do more research, and they are now worth £600m per year to businesses.
We know that there is some way to go to reinvigorate the electronics industry and the Government will soon be responding to the Electronics Innovation Growth report. I believe that together, Government, industry and technology research organisations can ensure that the UK continues to benefit, grow and prosper from an electronics sector that is underpinned by innovation and world-class performance.