Semiconductor manufacturing began with a collaboration between Plessey Semiconductors and Geoffrey Dummer of the RSRE to create the first IC working model in 1957. This was a full year before the first chip was produced by Jack Kilby at Texas Instruments, which is often considered to be the world’s first semiconductor.
Despite being a world-first, the UK semiconductor industry is one that makes a minimal impact on the world market. Even as the demand for chips continues to expand, this industry is quite vulnerable. In 2017, when Apple decided it would begin designing its own graphics chips, UK semiconductor manufacturers lost more than 60% of their market cap in a single day.
Manta currently lists a total of 65 firms that are self-described as being responsible for semiconductors or related devices in the United Kingdom.
Important UK Semiconductor Industry Statistics
#1. In 2017, UK manufacturer sales of semiconductors LEDs were worth GBP 12.93 million. In 2008, the total sales were GBP 7.49 million, though current sales are off from the 2015 high of GBP 16.9 million. (Statista)
#2. The sale of semiconductor devices from manufacturer sales of parts amounted to GBP 12.03 million in 2017. This includes the sale of transistors, diodes, and photosensitive semiconductor devices. (Statista)
#3. Exports of photosensitive semiconductor devices were worth just under GBP 160 million in 2017. (Statista)
#4. Imports of photosensitive semiconductor devices to the UK semiconductor industry totaled GBP 1.4 billion in both 2014 and 2015 respectively. (Statista)
#5. In 2015, China was responsible for over 58% of the world’s semiconductor consumption market. The Americas were responsible for 12%, while Europe was responsible for 6% of this market. Japan came in with a 5.5% share. (Statista)
#6. The United Kingdom is currently listed as the 8th-largest industrial nation in the world today. If current trends hold, it will become the 5th-largest country for manufacturing by 2021. (The Manufacturer)
#7. Manufacturing on the whole makes up 70% of business-related research and development, 44% of the total exports which originate from the UK, and 11% of GVA. Total manufacturing is responsible for the employment of 2.6 million people. (The Manufacturer)
#8. Europe saw 21.7% growth in the semiconductor industry in 2017 when compared to 2016 figures. Only the Americas saw a higher level of growth during that time period, at 37.7%. China saw 16.4% growth, while Japan saw 15.5% growth. (Electronics Weekly)
#9. As of February 2017, the global semiconductor industry had seen 19 consecutive months of year-over-year sales increases, with unprecedented double-digit growth across all sectors. (Electronics Weekly)
#10. 17 out of the world’s top 25 semiconductor companies have development or design operations that are located in the United Kingdom. (Department for International Trade)
#11. The electronics sector in the UK is worth GBP 16 billion each year to the local economy. More than 300,000 people are employed in various areas of electronics, of which the semiconductor industry is a vital foundational component. (Department for International Trade)
#12. For high-end consumer electronics products, the United Kingdom is the largest market in Europe. Over 18,000 companies are currently developing products which contain semiconductors, including HDTVs, gaming consoles, and mobile phones. (Department for International Trade)
#13. The UK currently holds a 40% share of Europe’s available electronics design industry. Current expertise within the industry focuses on integrated circuits (ICs), RFID and optoelectronics, as well as electronic components. (Department for International Trade)
#14. Over 150 independent electronic system design houses are currently part of the UK semiconductor industry, which is more than any other nation in Europe currently has. (Department for International Trade)
#15. For medical electronics which use semiconductors, there are over 3,000 firms currently active in the UK. For this segment of the industry, the average turnover is GBP 13 billion. (Department for International Trade)
#16. The National Health Service is expected to replace up to 80% of its current machinery with updated medical electronics in the next 5-year period. (Department for International Trade)
#17. In 2010, communications-related products made up 20% of the total semiconductor industry output in Europe, of which the UK is the largest overall market. (Department for International Trade)
#18. 22% of the total European semiconductor industry in 2010 was accounted for by the automotive market. The UK is one of only 5 major manufacturing companies for automobiles in Europe, with over 2 million engines and 1 million vehicles produced each year. (Department for International Trade)
#19. Military purchases accounted for 1% of the semiconductor market in 2010, with the UK being the second-largest defense exporter in the world. (Department for International Trade)
#20. The UK is also the world’s largest market for intelligent transport system technologies. 1 out of every 4 global CCTV installations occurs in the United Kingdom. (Department for International Trade)
#21. 30% of the world’s top technology and engineering universities are located in the UK. About 11,000 students graduate each year with a degree that is related to electronics in some way. (Department for International Trade)
UK Semiconductor Industry Trends and Analysis
The UK semiconductor industry may be light on manufacturing opportunities, but it is rich in design, implementation, and sales. Tens of thousands of companies are dependent upon the manufacturing supply chain that has been established by this industry, creating a sophisticated network of products and services which help the average person own modern electronics.
Over 1,700 companies work in the lighting supply chain alone that is associated with the UK semiconductor industry.
What is telling about this industry is the gap between exports and imports for semiconductors that are needed. Most of the product manufacturing occurs with imported semiconductors, which is why the growth patterns in China and the Americas are integral components of this industry.
This industry will continue to be small, stable, and profitable. Even with Brexit concerns that are ongoing, expect the growth patterns found here to be similar to those found in the rest of the world.