Q5 interview – James Foster, XMOS Semiconductor

Electronics Weekly puts its questions to an industry figure: James Foster is CEO of XMOS Semiconductor, the Bristol-based developer of programmable chips, tools and IP aimed at consumer applications.

Describe in two sentences the business model being adopted at XMOS.

We are developing the world’s first Software Defined Silicon. This will be
delivered through an what we like to call an automated online sales, marketing & operations engine.

What makes Bristol an ideal location for a semiconductor start-up?

The availability of superb engineering talent. We get excellent graduates from Bristol University who can put their university studies to immediate use, and we also have a clustering of similar firms (both start-up and established) that creates a fantastic talent pool. And the South West has a rich heritage of innovation and invention.

There is much talk of a shortage of high-tech skills in the UK, what is your experience of this?

There are some disciplines where we don’t have an abundance of candidates, but in the main we have been able to locally source our talent without huge effort. If you have an innovative and exciting technology, and create a forum for engineers and designers to flourish, they will find you.

What gives you the biggest buzz from creating a start-up company?

The excitement. We are doing something really important in the electronics industry and having fun. Our staff will tell their friends, our marketing team tells the world, and it builds. Sharing authentic enthusiasm is infectious and people want to follow the story and see us succeed.

What would you say to students to encourage them to consider careers in electronics design?

It is an extremely well-paid career. Here in Bristol designers are creating products that directly impact the ways people interact with, benefit by and profit from technology. This is rewarding on so many different levels.

See also: Q5 - Interviews with electronics industry leaders
Read all the Electronics Weekly Q5 interviews. From ARM’s chairman, Sir Robin Saxby, to touchscreen technology firm Zytronic’s MD, Mark Cambridge, the business leaders share their particular insights on the UK electronics industry.

Tags: Bristol, ceo, design, developer, IP, semiconductor, XMOS, Xmos Semiconductor

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