Developing new products involves technical risk and investment uncertainty. When a new silicon chip is designed, the manufacturer provides an ‘evaluation module’ for developers to assess its performance and accelerate its adoption. The Catapult has adapted this approach with the use of evaluation modules (EVMs) to de-risk the adoption of new compound semiconductor chips.
Our EVMs focus on the riskier aspects of product development, reducing uncertainty at the cutting edge – where the market is reluctant to invest. In 2018, we developed a double-pulse EVM to characterize the performance of new GaN and SiC power devices. Whilst this technique is often used for silicon devices, our EVM featured high precision metrology operating at elevated voltages and currents to evaluate the latest SiC and GaN devices. Using our characterization expertise, this EVM can rapidly assess the performance of SiC and GaN devices over a wide range of operating parameters.
Whilst the EVM was initially launched as a research project, its characterization capability proved to be invaluable when assessing new SiC devices for automotive applications, as part of a sovereign supply chain initiative, and the EVM is now integral to an R&D project. This innovative approach to device characterization was recognized by the UK’s trade association TechWorks, winning their R&D Excellence award in 2019.
Following the early success of the double pulse EVM, the Catapult has expanded its EVM programme, applying EVMs to 11 projects involving over 80 organisations, and crowding in over £41m of investment. We continue to scan the market to assess ideas for future EVMs that will create a similar level of impact.