27.01.2022 - Engineering & metalworking, Photonics & Smart materials

13 Latvian semiconductor ecosystem participants

In the run-up to Christmas 2021, the largest buying season of the year, Playstation came out with an unprecedented statement – that they will not be able to meet market demand for PS5s. They weren’t alone. Globally, 5% fewer cars were manufactured than the previous year. The reason? A global shortage of semiconductors – the silicon chips necessary to make any computer or smart device. 

What’s more – the main producers of these semiconductors come almost exclusively from Asia – an area with differing approaches to data privacy and democracy. This potential security threat has led to the EU pledging to increase microchip production to 20% of the global market by 2030.

It’s never been more important to have fully made-in-Europe hardware to power our growing demands for smart society. And while there are pockets of producers around Europe, such as in Holland, having an additional base for production will only contribute to increased security prosperity. 

Latvia has every ingredient necessary to become a hub for semiconductor production. The know-how, the manufacturing facilities, the academic backing, the list goes on. 

These are the 13 organizations that could lay the groundwork and provide the skills, knowledge, and talent for semiconductor production.

Semiconductor legacy and launchpad for growth

Latvia already has a host of companies working in silicon and semiconductor manufacturing. While the focus is on small batch production or R&D, the existence of these businesses demonstrate that the highly-skilled human resources and industry know-how are present in the country. With increased investment, the legacy companies will lay the foundation for the launchpad of scaled production. 

KEPP EU – silicon metallurgy, obtaining raw materials

KEPP EU has been developing silicon technologies since the 1970s. With multiple patents, academic publications, and participation in various EU R&D projects, the company has always put a focus on the availability of raw materials (defect-free crystals), both in terms of price and quantity. Their success with a nearly unknown approach to crystal production made it possible to dive into research and scientific publications at a global scale.

RD Alfa – semiconductor manufacturer

RD Alfa is a company that has already been manufacturing small batches of semiconductors since 1962. They specialize in certified high reliability and radiation hardened microelectronics components for aеrоspace and defense equipment as well as video transmission components. 

With this historic knowledge, it is proven that the Latvian ecosystem produces the necessary technical skills and knowledge to develop semiconductors, and is a strong indicator of a foundation that can be scaled and built upon.

Alfa RPAR – semiconductor manufacturer

Founded in 1959, the company has over 60 years of producing semiconductors, with revenue of $3.8M. They specialize in elements including ​​operational amplifiers, voltage comparators, analog-to-digital converters, digital-to-analog converters, precision voltage-to-frequency converters and vice versa, timers, voltage regulators, transistors and transistor pairs, RF transistors, and digital signal processors.

Electronics manufacturing specialty

Over 300 companies work in the electronics and engineering sphere, contributing to over 700M EUR in revenue, 90% of which was a result of export. This demonstrates the competitiveness of the local electronics industry. Digging down into the various companies, we see that their specialization can contribute a meaningful element of the semiconductor industry.

Baltic Scientific Instruments (BSI) – spectrometer manufacturing

BSI develops a variety of spectrometers – a critical tool in semiconductor manufacturing to ensure that the silicon semiconductors are working properly. Their devices are currently used in industries such as nuclear power, environmental monitoring, geophysics and the mining industry, medicine and healthcare, research including space sciences, security systems and customs control, and other spheres.

BSI was established in 1994, but is a spinoff of the Riga Research and Development Institute for Radio-Isotope Apparatus (RNIIRP, est.1966), which belonged to the Ministry for Atomic Energy.

MikroTik – router software and hardware development and production

MikroTik is a world-leading producer of routers, with their routers being trusted with SpaceX liftoff and more. With a major production line and global demand for their products, MikroTik also has a high demand for semiconductors. 

Having a local producer with the global knowledge and expertise as to what those semiconductors should be able to do is a huge advantage in the R&D process. Not to mention MikroTik plays an important role in the supply chain – making sure that those semiconductors have a place to go. 

HansaMatrix – hardware manufacturing

HansaMatrix is a manufacturing company ideally situated to further develop the specific facilities necessary for semiconductor production.

HansaMatrix is one of the leading Baltic-Nordic electronics system manufacturers, providing innovations-based manufacturing services, including product engineering, testing, rapid prototyping, complete manufacturing, optical and display system manufacturing, and more. 

With three manufacturing sites throughout Latvia and over 350 trained professionals, the  ISO9001-certified state-of-the-art buildings are able to cover a wide range of technical industries, such as IoT, smart city, liquid crystal and optical devices, scientific and medical equipment, and more.

SAF Tehnika – connectivity hardware development and production

SAF Tehnika is one of the leading hardware developers and producers in Latvia, developing a wide range of microwave data transmission devices and technologies. Each one of these makes use of semiconductors. 

SAF Tehnika’s expertise in wireless solutions would be a meaningful contribution to the development of semiconductors for similar uses, including wireless microwave data transmission, IoT, environmental monitoring solutions, cloud solutions, and more. 

Ubiquiti – connectivity R&D 

Ubiquiti is a global IT company that develops network and data transmission technologies. The company develops products such as routers, switches, wireless access points, video surveillance systems, data security protection servers, and Latvia is the home of their dedicated R&D cell.

Products developed in Latvia are then exposed to mass markets abroad. Ubiquiti can play a core role in developing connectivity innovations, as well as distributing them to a global market. 

Use case integration

One step in the semiconductor manufacturing process is developing it for a certain use case – be it cars, laptops, your roomba, or anything else connected to the internet. In order to develop it successfully, it helps to have the expertise of the receiving end on-hand to help fine-tune the process.

LMT – mobile innovator

LMT is Latvia’s leading mobile operator, innovator, and integrator, pushing the boundaries of mobile connectivity and applying it to use cases around the world. 

Mobile operators can play an important role in the semiconductor supply chain. Each semiconductor has to be developed with a specific use case in mind, which also connects to 5G modules – any internet-enabled device. This requires use case knowledge, mobile connectivity know-how, as well as programming skills – all of which can be fulfilled by LMT. 

LMT is already leading a consortium of companies developing a quantum algorithm for a chip – just one example of the many use cases that can be applied together with semiconductors. 

LightSpace Technologies – Augmented Reality technology

LightSpace Technologies is a deeptech company that’s developing various technologies required for the development of augmented reality (AR). They are a global leader in the volumetric, multi-focal, and holographic technology fields, with their own R&D laboratories, industrialization, and fabrication facilities. Among their accomplishments is the invention of the world’s first multi-focal technology that uses multiple screens, which leads to the most realistic AR viewing experience in existence.

AR technology, in order to be connected to the internet, will also require the 5G modules and programming to function at its fullest potential. Having the local know-how and use case represented is key to developing semiconductors for that specific use and other products in that industry.

Academic backing

Institute of Electronics and Computer Science (EDI)

EDI is the highest-ranking Latvian scientific institute in the field of engineering and technologies. It specializes in the development of smart embedded cooperative systems to facilitate the production of high-added-value technologies.

EDI has experience in analogue chip design and uses the taped-out chips to reduce the size of EDI UWB RADAR. It works with Heterogeneous System on Chip (HSoC) technology that leverages both software and digital design for next-generation use-cases.

Institute of Solid State Physics (ISSP)

The ISSP plays an international role in the R&D of innovative aspects of Solid State Physics and is a backbone of physics-based research. As an institute under the University of Latvia, it employs over 200 academics who are working towards driving global-level innovations in solid-state physics and material science. 

ISSP research covers materials sciences, solid state physics, and advanced characterization methods, including defect analysis.

The ISSP has various branches, including the Nanotechnology Center, which serves as a location for developing electronic and phototronic device component prototypes and test concepts. The ISSP’s facilities also include cleanrooms – thus providing the necessary ultra-sterile environment for R&D in the field of semiconductor production.

Under the ISSP, there is also the Materize organization, which is dedicated to taking that research and applying it to business. Lithography and composite nanomaterials synthesis are one of their primary areas of focus.

Institute of Numerical Modelling

The Institute of Numerical Modelling covers a variety of fields of research, one of which is semiconductor technologies. 

The Institute has over 25 years of experience in the mathematical modeling of silicon single crystal growth processes. Their research contracts have involved work towards optimizing silicon crystal growth, including increased yield, lower failure rate, and higher quality of the manufactured semiconductor wafers.

An industry ripe for investment

With a variety of skill sets, technical know-how, specialized premises, already in place, Latvia proves to have high potential. It is an environment where scaling semiconductor production is not only possible but also likely to yield high returns due to the lower cost of operations in the region (with the 5th lowest labour costs per hour in the EU)  coupled with ever-growing global demand. 

With plans in motion and interested parties already approached, any additional interested investors and global partners are invited to speak to LIAA about participating in this high-returns investment opportunity. Get in touch with Andrejs Berdnikovs at invest@liaa.gov.lv to get involved.

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