The New South Wales government is seeking a host organisation for a new semiconductor bureau to be established at Sydney’s Tech Central precinct next year as part of a strategic push to participate in the design stage of the global $570 billion semiconductor market.
Known as the Semiconductor Sector Service Bureau, or ‘S3B’, the government funded group will offer industry stakeholders brokering services, semiconductor design courses, market reports and linkages, and foster a “more connected and market-aware semiconductor ecosystem in Australia”.
The government wants it up and running by January next year and applicants will need to agree to operate it from the Tech Central precinct in the CBD.
The global semiconductor market for just the chips alone is currently estimated to be worth more than $570 billion annually and is forecast to more than double by the end of the decade. Government commissioned research found New South Wales and Australia only plays a small role in global value chains but there is potential to move up them.
“We need to play in this industry, but we need to play smart and skilled [with] something that will stack up internationally,” parliamentary secretary to the premier Gabrielle Upton told InnovationAus.
Ms Upton, who has been leading the state government’s recent innovation push, said the US, China and Taiwan have got semiconductor fabrication “covered” but there is an opportunity for Australia in the design stage.
“It’s about design,” she said.
“We made a competitive assessment [and found] we can build the skills though that network and be able to contribute to our capability, that we need. We need to play into the semiconductor industry.”
S3B was a primary recommendation from a report into the Australian Semiconductor Sector Study conducted by the University of Sydney Nano Institute for the Office of the NSW Chief Scientist & Engineer last year.
The study, based on secondary research and more than 100 one-on-one and group interviews with sector leaders, found that with a “long term view and commitment” there was potential for New South Wales and Australia to move up semiconductor supply chains from adoption to innovation and IP creation.
According to the report the new bureau is a crucial step because it will be a precursor to many of the other initiatives to grow the local semiconductor sector and will conduct the market analysis to inform the larger capital incurring decisions down the track.
“The S3B, would play a key ‘hub’ role within the overall set of possible semiconductor sector initiatives,” the report recommended.
“It would enhance the capability, market connectedness and competitiveness of Australia’s semiconductor sector by providing independent, relevant, effective and cost-effective services to the sector.”
The NSW government last month held a public workshop on the proposal, where 120 industry research an government stakeholders provided feedback on the bureau’s functions. It is now seeking expressions of interest from public and private organisations or consortiums to host the new semiconductor bureau.
A further information session will be held for applicants next month and their request for proposal will be due by December, and funding and a contract awarded in January 2022.
The government will provide up to $4 million over five years to fund S3B through the Emerging Industry Infrastructure Fund.
S3B will be operated by a small staff of at least four full time equivalent employees, which will predominantly offer free services to local industry. A condition of the funding is it being located at Tech Central.
“We’re placing it where it makes sense,” said Ms Upton who led the development of a research and development action plan last year, that included a focus on precincts and colocation among its recommendations.
“We’re trying to create places where these new industries can thrive and survive rather than supporting them in disparate places across the state.”
Ms Upton said the government was making a strategic choice to support the design stage of the semiconductor industry and would be supporting local organisations through coordination, research translation, procurement and long term support that might be seen as too risky by the private sector alone.
“What the New South Wales Government is doing is new but important,” she said.
“It’s supporting capabilities before they become industries and that’s what’s represented by what we are launching [with S3B].”
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