New NSW semiconductor bureau to set up at Sydney’s tech precinct

A NSW government-funded Semiconductor Service Bureau will be established at Cicada Innovations in Sydney’s Tech Central Precinct, aiming to “drive sovereign semiconductor capability” and support critical industries “including health, defence and telecommunications.”

Support for a $4 million Semiconductor Sector Service Bureau, styled “S3B”, was announced in October last year, based on a primary recommendation of an Australian Semiconductor Sector Study, released in December 2020 and published by the Office of the NSW Chief Scientist & Engineer.

The bureau will include input from experts from University of Sydney, Macquarie University, UNSW Sydney, CSIRO and the Australian National Fabrication Facility.

Its inaugural Director, Dr Nadia Court from University of Sydney’s Core Research Facilities said the bureau would be the nexus of the semiconductor sector for both the state of NSW and the nation.

“The S3B will build connectivity and collaboration, and support commercial impact. It will play a key role in advocating for the sector, connecting companies and researchers with design and manufacturing capabilities globally,” said Court.

NSW Chief Scientist & Engineer Professor Hugh Durrant-Whyte said NSW possessed a strong competitive advantage, with most Australian semiconductor companies based in the state.

“Each of the institutions forming this consortium have a long history of innovation within the sector, working closely with Australian leaders in semiconductor technology and major global firms,” said Durrant-Whyte, who is affiliated with the University’s Faculty of Engineering.

The semiconductor industry is at the apex of manufacturing complexity, as well as of strong strategic importance. 

As one research paper put it, making a single chip depends on “thousands and thousands of people, most of whom have specialized knowledge and specialized jobs, spanning myriad industries, countries, and regions.” 

NSW minister for science Alister Henskens said that the semiconductor sector was found to be a local strength in the recent NSW 20-Year R&D Roadmap and presented an opportunity to grow the economy.

“From computers and smartphones to military communications and medical devices… [chips] drive the technological devices we use every day and are indispensable to many global supply chains,” said Henskens.

“The semiconductor industry has been an engine for economic growth over the last 60 years and the S3B represents an enormous opportunity to secure a brighter future for NSW by accelerating our participation in the global semiconductor market.”

The global semiconductor industry has been valued at an estimated $US 600 billion, expanding about 20 per cent over 2021, and tipped by McKinsey to reach a trillion US dollars a year by the end of the decade. 

Australia’s contribution to this has room to grow.

The semiconductor review mentioned above noted that it was “was unable to uncover a major Australian company, whose core business activity is participation in the semiconductor design, development and production value chain.”

Image credit: University of Sydney

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