ChipStart UK: a celebration of UK semiconductor startups

Silicon Catalyst.UK, the UK arm of the startup incubator dedicated to fostering semiconductor solutions, hosted an event to celebrate semiconductor startups and to discuss the industry.

The UK has a history of innovation and can potentially double the number of semiconductor unicorns in the next decade with continued investment and partnerships. Advancements in technology and innovation are emerging from the UK, positioning it as a leader in the industry. It is through programmes like ChipStart UK that the UK can become a powerhouse once again.

This event brought some of the UK's best semiconductor startups into the spotlight during London Tech Week, introducing their global potential to an audience of leading tech investors and industry players.

At the event, cohort one of the programme, who are a month away from finishing the nine-month programme, pitched to the room and explained all they had learned during the incubator and from their mentors, and cohort two of the incubator was announced.

Discussing the bright future of the semiconductor industry and where it needs to go in the future, Sean Redmond, Managing Partner at Silicon Catalyst.UK, commented: “We want to make semiconductors the choice for students coming out of university. There's no other industry in the world where you can touch the lives of everybody on the planet… Our objective [with the companies involved in the incubator] was to reach deep into the university research base.”

The future of the semiconductor industry depends on building stronger connections with universities to attract talented graduates and spark innovation. By partnering with academic institutions, the industry can access cutting-edge research and keep pushing forward. This partnership can tap into the spinouts from universities, which is something the USA does very well, but the UK has failed to capitalise on.

Another big topic of discussion was how to get VCs more willing to invest in semiconductor startups, as these startups often require a lot more capital, and a longer time before they are able to make a return to investors.

Jordan Billiald, Investor at IQ Capital, commented: “We've been investing in deeptech for 20 plus years now. During fundraising cycles, we've gained experience, and we gained the muscle memory to invest in deeptech companies. We’ve seen a lot of challenges, and a lot of things go wrong, and others go right. We try to bring and leverage that experience in funding.”

Some VCs may shy away from investing in deeptech companies, but through experience, such as the experience that IQ Capital brings to the table, investing in these deeptech startups becomes easier. In reality, hardware and deeptech companies take longer to produce a return, however are more likely to reach greater levels of revenue.

The first ChipStart UK cohort included:

  • Blueshift Memory
  • Fincheto
  • HIDRA Vision
  • HyperCIM
  • Mignon
  • MintNeuro
  • Quinas
  • RED Semiconductors
  • Singular Photonics
  • Vaire
  • Wave Photonics

Cohort two will feature:

  • Nanomation
  • Apitronix Semiconductor
  • Qontrol
  • Cherin Technologies
  • Kuasa Semi
  • PhovIR Technologies
  • RigPa
  • Heronic
  • POM Health
  • Visionchip
  • Metahelios

The incubator programme will run two consecutive cohorts and end in March 2025. Startups that have been chosen will be provided with:

  • access to, and support for, commercial design capability. This includes the full Silicon Catalyst ecosystem, access to design tools, IP, and prototyping capability
  • commercial expertise and bespoke mentorship. Startups will be mentored by experienced semiconductor industry executives and connected into Silicon Catalyst’s global network
  • exposure to private capital. Participant companies will also have access to the 270+ Silicon Catalyst advisors, Strategic Partners, and an extensive network of investment groups