Pragmatic’s £500m Drive to Lead UK Chip Manufacturing

16-04-2024 | By Robin Mitchell

Pragmatic welcomes HRH The Princess Royal to Pragmatic Park for the opening of the UK’s first 300mm semiconductor wafer manufacturing facility

Key Things to Know:

  • Challenges of Wearable Medical Devices: Despite their potential, wearable devices face significant hurdles due to the physical nature of electronic components and the demands of operating under extreme conditions.
  • Flexible Electronics: They offer the potential to transform technology with their capacity to bend, twist, and stretch. However, issues like durability, material availability, and manufacturing complexity limit their widespread adoption.
  • PragmatIC's Role: PragmatIC Semiconductor is at the forefront of overcoming these challenges, with innovations that could enable the large-scale adoption of flexible electronics in various sectors.
  • Future Outlook: With strategic investments and the recent opening of a major manufacturing facility, PragmatIC Semiconductor is poised to lead advancements in flexible electronics, impacting industries globally.

Wearable medical devices bring countless opportunities, but for all their benefits, they are hindered by numerous factors including the physical nature of electronic components and the need to work after extreme stress. What challenges do wearable electronics face in the medical industry, what exactly have the researchers of a new material done, and how could such materials transform the future of wearable medical devices?

Obstacles Encountered by Flexible Electronics

Flexible electronics, a swiftly evolving technology, offer a promising future with their ability to be bent, twisted, and stretched, unlike traditional rigid electronic components. However, despite their potential, flexible electronics encounter several challenges that hinder their widespread adoption and integration into various applications.

One of the primary challenges faced by flexible electronics is the issue of durability. While the flexibility of these components is a significant advantage, it also makes them more susceptible to wear and tear. Constant bending and flexing can lead to material fatigue, causing cracks or breaks in the components over time. This poses a significant challenge in ensuring the long-term reliability and performance of flexible electronics, especially in applications that require continuous movement or deformation.

Another critical challenge is the limited availability of flexible substrates and materials that can withstand the bending and stretching associated with flexible electronics. Traditional rigid electronic materials, such as silicon, are not suitable for flexible applications due to their inherent brittleness. Developing flexible and stretchable materials that can maintain electrical conductivity and mechanical integrity under various deformations remains a significant hurdle in the advancement of flexible electronics technology.

Innovations in Material Science and Fabrication for Flexible Electronics

Furthermore, the manufacturing processes for flexible electronics present unique challenges compared to conventional rigid electronics. The deposition, patterning, and integration of electronic components on flexible substrates require specialised fabrication techniques that can accommodate the flexibility and stretchability of the materials. Achieving high precision and uniformity in manufacturing flexible electronics poses challenges in terms of scalability, cost-effectiveness, and yield rates.

Integration and compatibility with existing electronics infrastructure also present challenges for flexible electronics. Ensuring seamless communication and connectivity between flexible components and rigid electronic systems can be complex, particularly in applications where different form factors and materials are involved. Standardising interfaces and protocols for flexible electronics to interface with conventional electronics is essential for their successful integration into various devices and systems.

Additionally, the performance limitations of flexible electronic components, such as transistors and sensors, pose challenges in achieving functionality comparable to that of their rigid counterparts. Issues related to power efficiency, signal processing, and data transmission in flexible devices need to be addressed to enhance their overall performance and reliability. Balancing flexibility with performance metrics remains a key challenge in the development of advanced flexible electronics.

In addition to technical challenges, regulatory and standardisation hurdles also impact the adoption of flexible electronics in commercial applications. Ensuring compliance with safety standards, environmental regulations, and industry certifications is crucial for the widespread acceptance of flexible electronic products in the market. Addressing these regulatory challenges requires collaboration between industry stakeholders, regulatory bodies, and standardisation organisations to establish guidelines and frameworks for the development and deployment of flexible electronics.

While flexible electronics hold immense potential for changing various industries, they face significant challenges that must be overcome to realise their full benefits. Addressing issues related to durability, materials, manufacturing processes, integration, performance, and regulations is essential for advancing the field of flexible electronics and unlocking new opportunities for innovative applications in the future.

How does PragmatIC address these challenges?

PragmatIC Semiconductor, a leading manufacturer of flexible circuits, has strategically positioned itself to tackle the significant challenges faced by the flexible electronics industry. With the recent opening of the UK's first 300mm semiconductor wafer fabrication line at Pragmatic Park in Durham, the company is poised to change the landscape of chip manufacturing in the country. By addressing key obstacles head-on, PragmatIC Semiconductor is paving the way for the widespread adoption and integration of flexible electronics into various applications.

One of the critical challenges that flexible electronics encounter is the issue of durability. PragmatIC's focus on sustainability and scalability is evident in its technology, which aims to enable item-level intelligence in over a trillion sustainable, smart items in the next decade. By embedding sustainability at the core of its technology, PragmatIC Semiconductor is addressing the durability challenge by ensuring that its FlexICs can withstand continuous movement and deformation, thus enhancing the long-term reliability and performance of flexible electronics.

Additionally, the limited availability of flexible substrates and materials poses a significant hurdle for the industry. PragmatIC's ambitious plans to build eight manufacturing lines in the UK over the next five years, each capable of producing billions of chips annually, demonstrate its commitment to overcoming such material challenges. By investing in cutting-edge manufacturing capabilities, PragmatIC Semiconductor is driving innovation in flexible and stretchable materials that can maintain electrical conductivity and mechanical integrity under various deformations, thereby pushing the boundaries of flexible electronics technology.

From Expanding Production Capabilities to Marking Industry Milestones

The inauguration of Pragmatic Park by HRH The Princess Royal exemplifies PragmatIC's pivotal role in spearheading technological advancements within the UK's semiconductor industry. This event not only marks a significant milestone but also demonstrates the company's commitment to innovating within a sustainable and scalable framework.

In addition to material challenges, the manufacturing processes for flexible electronics present unique obstacles that require specialised fabrication techniques. PragmatIC's collaboration with key stakeholders, including fund manager M&G Investments, UK Infrastructure Bank, and other prominent investors, shows its intent to address these manufacturing challenges. By leveraging the expertise and resources of industry leaders, PragmatIC Semiconductor is advancing the development of flexible electronics through high-precision manufacturing processes that ensure scalability, cost-effectiveness, and high yield rates.

Integration and compatibility with existing electronics infrastructure are also key concerns for flexible electronics, which is why PragmatIC has formed numerous strategic partnerships with tech start-ups. By standardising interfaces and protocols for flexible electronics, PragmatIC Semiconductor is facilitating the successful integration of flexible devices into various devices and systems, thus overcoming compatibility challenges in the industry.

Furthermore, PragmatIC Semiconductor is actively addressing performance limitations in flexible electronic components by focusing on enhancing power efficiency, signal processing, and data transmission.

What does the future have in store for PragmatIC?

Looking forward, the outlook is optimistic for PragmatIC Semiconductor. With ambitious plans to construct multiple manufacturing lines in the UK, the company is positioned to change chip manufacturing and propel the advancement of flexible and stretchable materials. Through investments in advanced fabrication techniques and strategic partnerships, PragmatIC aims to enhance the performance and reliability of flexible electronic components, ensuring they can compete effectively with their rigid counterparts.

Additionally, PragmatIC's dedication to sustainability and innovation establishes a new benchmark for the industry, encouraging collaboration and setting the stage for the widespread adoption of flexible electronics. The company's commitment to confronting challenges directly and unlocking new opportunities for flexible electronics in various sectors demonstrates its potential to lead the way in changing industries and propelling technological progress.

David Moore, CEO of PragmatIC Semiconductor, reflected on the facility's opening, highlighting its importance for the UK's technology sector and global semiconductor landscape. "Today's opening marks a key milestone for PragmatIC's growth and the UK's position in the global semiconductor industry," Moore stated, underscoring the strategic significance of this development.

As PragmatIC Semiconductor continues to push the limits of flexible electronics technology, it is likely to gain increased recognition and success in the market. By remaining true to its core values of sustainability, innovation, and collaboration, PragmatIC is well-placed to shape the future of flexible electronics and unlock a world of possibilities for smart, sustainable, and intelligent applications across industries.


By Robin Mitchell

Robin Mitchell is an electronic engineer who has been involved in electronics since the age of 13. After completing a BEng at the University of Warwick, Robin moved into the field of online content creation, developing articles, news pieces, and projects aimed at professionals and makers alike. Currently, Robin runs a small electronics business, MitchElectronics, which produces educational kits and resources.