Microsemi, a subsidiary of Microchip Technology, specialises in taking semiconductors and turning them into the modules that form the building blocks of modern technology. Jim Ryan shares his thoughts on the future of both company and cluster.
In layperson’s terms, what does Microsemi do?
Our role within the cluster is to take the bare chips – ideally having had an input into their design and layout – and package them into a module, using various leading edge assembly technologies. So, in the process of going from a chip to a module to the end device motherboard, we typically work in the middle layer. To do that, we’ll mount the chip on a substrate, normally a printed circuit board or flex circuit, and surround it with various components to come up with a subsystem. We’ll then provide that as a fully tested building block for our ongoing customers to build into their motherboards. We also do the final assembly of the motherboards for certain customers – we’re able to offer a full turnkey solution, from design all the way through to manufacturing and aftermarket servicing.
How are you developing tomorrow’s workforce?
It’s a key need within the cluster to have a powerful engine for skills development. As we’re a technology company, we are naturally biased towards building technical skills to service our particular needs. We’re supporting and feeding into a number of initiatives across South Wales that will ensure we can upskill and recruit the right people for these roles. However, it’s also vital that we generate increased skills in terms of leadership, so we can future-proof our business. It’s the same with all the companies in the cluster: we all need to think beyond the technical and make sure we’re also fostering the business, commercial and leadership skills we need.
What’s the prognosis for the business sector over the next decade?
We’re certainly on a growth path, and have been for many years. We expect that to continue, because the offering that we have – building integrated, miniaturised packages for our customers is proving to be very attractive. A feature of our modules is that you can design them quickly, and they’re very flexible to change in the early development stage. If you want to a re-design of a piece of silicon, you’re talking about £100,000 to make a new mask set, whereas we can alter a module very quickly to get into the market. That has been a very powerful offering for us, and we expect to keep growing. Obviously, being part of the cluster, we’ll be able to collaborate with our other partners to drive that through.
Aside from the cluster, what are the advantages of being located in Wales?
A major one is proximity to a very strong support network, in terms of the Welsh Government and industry bodies. We work very closely with universities – our technological virtual family – so being close to Swansea University, Cardiff University and the University of South Wales is very important to us. I’d also include the welsh workforce: the quality of people we’re able to employ, their productivity and their loyalty to the company. That’s part of the culture within this area.