Lancaster University

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Lancaster University to Address the Skills Crisis in the UK Microelectronics Industry

12/11/2000 15:35:08

The serious shortage of electronic engineers in the UK is being addressed by Lancaster University in a new collaboration between its Centre for Microsystems Engineering and the Institute for System Level Integration (ISLI), based in Livingston, Scotland.

The UK electronics sector is experiencing critical shortages of 'analogue electronics' engineers, a specialised field which requires skills in device physics and mathematics as well as in electronic engineering. This combination of subjects has been decreasing in popularity amongst school leavers since the 1980s.

To address these shortages, Lancaster University's Centre for Microsystems Engineering has recently initiated co-operation with ISLI to provide training in analogue test engineering.

ISLI launched the Engineering Doctorate (EngD) in Systems Level Integration in April 1999 with the aim of creating high quality post doctoral researchers for the microelectronics industry. To assist in programme delivery, the microelectronics team at Lancaster is developing specialist modules in analogue test engineering for postgraduate teaching which will also form the basis of professional training courses. The Lancaster team will be responsible for the delivery of modules and courses in analogue test at ISLI's teaching facility.

This new development will enhance the dissemination activities of the rapidly expanding microsystems activity at Lancaster University led by Andrew Richardson. The IT industry is becoming more and more reliant on advances in low cost, high complexity silicon-chips and it is essential that the UK maintains a credible design, research and development base in the field. This initiative has the potential to revitalise UK innovation in this area and it is hoped that the Lancaster team will continue to play a key role over the next decade.

Andrew Richardson who runs the Microsystems activity at Lancaster sees the initiative as the start of a more extensive collaboration. 'The concept of distributed teams and even distributed centres of expertise has been gaining interest within the microelectronics community for several years, for two main reasons: skills shortages and the escalation in the size of the engineering teams required to engineer new devices,' comments Andrew Richardson. 'We hope that this collaboration will be an example of how to address the needs of the industry through partnership.'

ISLI is an academic collaboration involving the Universities of Edinburgh, Glasgow, Strathclyde and Heriot-Watt and was established in 1998 to spearhead a significant expansion of microelectronics design activity in the heart of Scotland's 'Silicon Glen'.