Advanced semiconductor materials were identified as being key to a range of new and emerging technologies when IQE was founded. At that time, the epitaxy process was vertically integrated within the semiconductor fabrication plants operated by major international blue-chip companies. There were no businesses worldwide that specialised in the materials technology for advanced semiconductors. IQE was established to challenge existing business models by providing the first outsourced epi-wafer services globally. The major challenges in establishing the business model was in encouraging major semiconductor businesses to alter strategies to outsource their specialised production technologies rather than develop in-house capabilities.

Success Factor

Increasing reliance on advanced semiconductors in today’s technology. In the last three years, the advanced semiconductor material content (GaAs) in mobile phone handsets has increased by around 400% to support increased functionality. Independent market analysis also estimates that IQE’s global market share of the outsourced market has increased from around 15% to over 30% and as the demand for IQE’s advanced materials has grown, so too has the trend to outsource rather than produce in-house.

The Future

Future plans include diversifying the group’s product portfolio. At present, over 75% of the group’s business is based on wireless products for mobile handsets, WiFi components for PCs and handheld devices, etc. Whilst this sector is expected to continue to grow, components for products such as high efficiency solar cells and LEDs for solid state lighting are expected to contribute strongly to the overall product offering. As part of the diversification, IQE’s announced last month the acquisition of NanoGaN Limited along with a range of unique production capabilities, patented technology and intellectual property. This deal provides the group with additional capabilities for the production of blue and green laser materials for high definition storage (BluRay), projection, high definition printing and lighting products. IQE is also actively engaged in a number of programmes related to concentrator photovoltaic (CPV) solar cells.