Voice to Government

 
It’s important for industry that Government has supportive policies in place.  A key part of NMI’s role is to ensure Government is aware of the needs and priorities of the UK microelectronics industry and we work diligently with Regional and National Government to ensure this is the case. By virtue of our regular contact with industry we are able to synthesise a comprehensive view of the priorities that industry requires and develop these into specific objectives and plans for action.

Influencing Policy

Experience serves to show that member concerns ebb and flow with time and its reassuring to know that that there is an organisation thats always there, ready to willing to express these concerns. It’s also important to know that whatever changes take place, NMI will know the correct channels as Governmental departments are not immune from reorganisation.

United

And we’re not alone – many of the challenges faced by our sector are common to the wider electronics industry and for that reason it’s important that we collaborate with others to develop a common voice: NMI is proud to be a founding member and integral part of the UK Electronics Alliance (UKEA).

UKEA was formed in response to the Electronics Innovation and Growth Team (EIGT) Report, published by (what was known as) the Department for Trade and Industry in 2005.  UKEA currently comprises 11 Trade Associations representing regional, sectoral and special interest areas and provides an active forum to collaborate on common issues such as regulation and skills.  By actively working with our colleagues across the industry we are able to fortify key messages and amplify our voice to Government.

Nanotechnologies and the Electronics Sector

Over the past 20 years, the electronics industry has produced ever-smaller devices with improved costs and performance. These advances have been driven by Moore’s Law and the demand for faster processing times and more processing power and represent a natural continuation of microelectronics.

 

As technologies evolve, nanomaterials and nanoprocesses could result in the realisation of molecular-scale electronics and quantum computing. In particular, carbon nano-tubes, and more recently graphene, have received significant interest because of their excellent electronic properties. These materials are being touted as possible replacements for silicon.

 

Areas of opportunity for the use of nanotechnologies in electronic components cross a wide range of sectors. They include:

  • Electronic materials – lower costs and improved performance of transparent electrodes, electrolytes, transistors, etc.
  • Organic electronics
  • Chemicals used to polish electronic circuits
  • Displays – carbon nano-tube based displays have been demonstrated and are close to market,
  • LEDs – use carbon nano-tubes, quantum dots and nanowires to increase efficiency, colour stability and lifetimes),
  • Optoelectronics and photonics,
  • Energy storage and generation devices e.g. batteries, solar cells, capacitors, fuel cells
  • Heat management systems
  • Sensors
  • Memory and storage devices
  • Radio frequency identification (RFI) tags using optically active nanoparticles

 

Are Nanoelectronics products already on the market?

Yes. Current products tend to be discrete but more integrated large area and arrayed devices (like solar cells) are emerging.

Managing risks and uncertainties

The regulatory environment that governs conventional electronics systems and devices and their applications will hold true for the inclusion of nanomaterials and nanoprocesses. This includes a need to meet flame retardancy, RoHS and WEEE directive requirements. As with other sectors, calls for the further investigation into the environmental, health and safety effects of nanotechnology will be important in determining market adoption and uptake, especially given the ubiquity of electronic devices in people’s everyday lives.

Conclusions

Nanotechnologies will play a key role in future electronics advances, including the commercialisation of organic electronic devices. However, a paradigm transition to CNT-electronics remains very uncertain.

Below is a SWOT analysis summarising Government understanding, from discussion with stakeholders, of the major strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats facing the UK in this sector.

  • Strength: Good research base and materials production expertise in the UK. The UK electronics industry already embracing nanotechnology.
  • Weakness: Hype over the performance of nanomaterials in real applications (e.g. carbon nano-tubes), long time to market, cost of nanomaterials, scaling issues, process compatibility of nanomaterials with existing electronics manufacturing infrastructure.
  • Opportunity: Nanotechnology will impact on every industry because electronics are ubiquitous. Hybrid integration with existing semiconductor materials and processes most likely in near to mid term. Carbon nano-tubes or graphene-based transistors are unlikely to emerge commercially for 5-10 years.
  • Threat: Conventional materials and manufacturing processes: Silicon will not be easily displaced and other materials have been touted as potential replacements without significant success in mainstream applications. Significant competition from major US, Japanese and South Korean electronics companies that have taken the lead in many nanoelectronics developments.

 

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