Ambitious plans to develop a flagship microchip design campus in central Scotland have been set back by a severe worldwide shortage in experienced semiconductor engineers.
Cadence Design Systems, the Californian microchip research and design company, has been forced to scale down plans to employ 1,800 designers at the Alba Centre research campus in Livingstone. The San Jose-based firm admitted its initial employment projections were unrealistic. It now aims to expand to 1,000 employees by the year 2004.
A Cadence recruitment drive in the UK and US failed to find enough experienced engineers and managers to co-ordinate graduates trainees at the semiconductor research campus. Global demand for trained staff from the rapidly expanding semiconductor industry has outstripped the number of suitable employees, a Cadence spokesman said.
`We moved here because of the high concentration of quality graduates, but we need experienced project leaders to act as mentors for our young designers,’ the spokesman said. `You can’t expand a business with only trainees.’
Cadence was a huge draw for regional development agency Scottish Enterprise when it opened the Alba Centre in 1997. The firm’s presence had fuelled talk of the campus becoming a hub for a second Silicon Valley.
Scottish Enterprise estimates that 43,000 people within a 40-mile radius of Livingstone – dubbed `Silicon Glen’ – work in electronics. Of these, 10,000 work in the design and manufacture of microchips.
Talks between Cadence and Scottish Enterprise are due to end in November, when both sides plan to make a joint announcement on their “future vision” for the Alba Centre.
Last week the centre’s initial staff of 300 moved into a purpose built £18m headquarters. The research facility also provides a virtual component exchange for electronic intellectual property, and runs the world’s only MSc course in systems level integration.