Dr Drew Nelson is the founder and CEO of Cardiff-based IQE, the world’s leading supplier of advanced semiconductor products used in the manufacture of almost every smartphone on the planet, plus a wide range of other electronic, wireless, solar and optoelectronic devices. Drew is thrilled to be involved in REAP and is optimistic the programme can help create world-class companies across Wales.
Dr Drew Nelson launched his semiconductor business, IQE, in 1988. Nearly thirty years on and it has an annual turnover of £120M, 600 staff and manufacturing plants in the UK, Taiwan, Singapore and America. The company’s headquarters still remain firmly rooted in Cardiff though, the city where it all began.
“I’m passionate about Wales and have always been determined to show that you don’t have to leave here to achieve great things,” Drew says. “It frustrates me that we have such a high degree of creativity and innovation in this country but that it is often commercialised in other parts of the world.”
Recently, Drew has taken a big step towards addressing this by partnering with Cardiff University to make Wales the home of the world’s first compound semiconductor cluster.
The project – backed by Welsh Government and UK Government – has already seen the creation of a Compound Semiconductor Centre and an Institute for Compound Semiconductor Technology, both at Cardiff University.
Through REAP, we want to inspire more homegrown businesses and entrepreneurs to capitalise on Wales-based creativity and innovation.
Set to open in 2018, these new facilities will enable researchers and industry figures to work together in testing and developing new technologies and devices. The cluster is expected to create up to 50 new businesses and 5000 new jobs by 2025.
“IQE demonstrates a prime example of where there is opportunity in Wales,” Drew says. “We’re at the beginning of the supply chain, manufacturing materials that are shipped to China to make chips – which are then imported back for us to use in the UK. But if we can create a supply chain entirely in Wales, we can create huge value.”
“There’s a real opportunity to create world-class companies in Wales if we seek to expand our horizons,” he continues. “And REAP can play a huge part in this.”
Drew believes that with the help of REAP, Wales can even create its own Silicon Valley. “It sounds hugely ambitious,” he says. “But we want to make Wales the best place it can possibly be in terms of innovation and entrepreneurship.”