MPs criticize government for delaying semiconductor strategy

UK ministers were criticized on Friday for continuing to delay a long-awaited strategy to support the semiconductor industry from a committee of MPs.

The government had intended to publish the plan for the growth of Britain’s chip industry by autumn 2022, according to a report by the business, energy and industrial strategy committee.

However, its launch has continued to be delayed, sparking widespread concern in the tech industry about the UK losing ground to rival countries in promoting growth in an important sector.

The delays have also been a factor in discussions at Japan’s SoftBank over whether to list Cambridge-based chip maker Arm in the UK as well as the US, according to people close to the process.

On Friday, MPs on the committee said further delaying the semiconductor strategy was an “act of national self-harm”.

A plan to ensure the security of chip supply chains must be published urgently, the committee added, or the growth of Britain’s chipmaking industry will be put at risk.

In a report in November, the committee’s recommendations included that the UK work better with allies to secure supplies and secure inward investment. But MPs questioned whether government support for the industry was “enough to have any meaningful effect”.

Committee chairman and Labor MP Darren Jones said the government was hiding “behind its failure to publish a semiconductor strategy for not fully responding to our practical recommendations”.

The draft is expected to present the results of an industry review to improve the resilience and security of UK supply chains and drive innovation.

The committee pointed out that the US Chip Act committed $52 billion to subsidize US semiconductors, while the EU has set aside €43 billion and Japan has its own multibillion-dollar plans.

Jones added: “Countries around the world have understood the importance of securing their semiconductor supply chains for their future, why haven’t we? While others are racing ahead, plowing billions into building fabs or supporting industry, we’re not even at the starting line.”

The MPs’ report follows a letter sent to the Prime Minister in January by tech industry executives calling for a coordinated and comprehensive “urgent” semiconductor strategy.

Signatories included Hermann Hauser, principal at Amadeus Capital Partners and one of the co-founders of Acorn Computers, where he helped spin out Arm.

The letter warned that Britain’s position as a leading technology ecosystem is at risk given how quickly the US, EU and China are moving to invest in silicon research and build chip factories.

He said: “The technology and manufacturing sectors have been waiting more than two years for the promised strategy, and confidence in the government’s ability to address the vital importance of this sector is steadily diminishing with each month of inaction.”

DCMS said: “We are committed to supporting the UK’s vital semiconductor industry. Our strategy will address the recommendations identified by the panel, including opportunities to further grow the industry and ensure we have a resilient supply chain.

“The strategy will be published as soon as possible.”

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