British prime minister, Rishi Sunak, has warned that the UK will become “tech colony” of China if the government doesn’t support the domestic semiconductor industry,
Nigel Toon, CEO of British chipmaker Graphcore, has written to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt, and Technology Secretary Michelle Donelan, urging them to commit to more funding for “home-grown” chip suppliers.
Mr Hunt promised in the budget to spend £900 million on high-tech AI computers, and Mr Toon has urged the Chancellor to set aside a “significant percentage” for spending with British chip companies.
“We are concerned that unless a significant portion of the budget is explicitly earmarked for UK-based suppliers, this funding commitment will quickly be consumed by digital giants like US-based chipmaker Nvidia,” Mr Toon wrote in a letter to ministers.
Microchip manufacturing has become a more political issue as the devices become increasingly important to economic growth and tensions with China rise.
The vast majority of semiconductors are produced in Asia, particularly in Taiwan and China.
According to Mr. Toon, the United States is already heavily subsidising its domestic semiconductor companies to develop advanced artificial intelligence technology.
The request follows a warning that Britain’s chip industry could be jeopardised. The Chinese-backed owner of Britain’s largest microchip plant has claimed that if the government successfully blocks its takeover, the facility will be forced to close.
Nexperia has been ordered to sell its stake in Newport Wafer Fab due to national security concerns, but the struggling factory claims it will fail without its assistance.
Graphcore, based in Bristol, was founded in 2016 and develops semiconductor technology for artificial intelligence.
Its “intelligence processing unit” is intended to outperform modern graphics processors at artificial intelligence tasks.
The company was valued at $2.8 billion in its most recent funding round, and it has received funding from BMW, Microsoft, and Baillie Gifford.