Semiconductor industry leader boosts Cambridge GaN Devices

April 30, 2021

Semiconductor industry veteran Dr Alain Charles has joined the board of Cambridge GaN Devices, a fabless semiconductor company spun out of Cambridge University – and the move could prove a global gamechanger for the young business.

Dr Charles has more than 30 years experience at the top end of the semiconductor industry and has joined as a non-executive director to accelerate CGD’s mission to shape a sustainable future for power electronics. 

The appointment follows a $9.5 million Series A funding round and is part of ambitious scale-up plans for the DeepTech business.

CGD is developing a range of GaN transistors customised for key applications in market segments such as consumer and industrial Switch Mode Power Supply, lighting, data centres and automotive HEV/EV. 

Its proprietary ICeGaN™ technology will allow it to replace silicon in those key applications, while enabling more compact power systems and better use of energy resources.

Dr Charles will offer CGD an independent view on the GaN ecosystem while serving as a strategic adviser on energy related initiatives, influencing and steering the board direction. 

He will also support CGD through strategic introductions to influential R & D institutions, partners, industry bodies and policy makers. These connections will help support CGD’s efforts towards delivering green electronics and reshaping the industry towards more sustainable practices.

He joins with the semiconductor industry on the cusp of major change. GaN powered devices are significantly higher performing than state-of-the-art silicon-based devices, enabling reductions in the size and weight of power converters, whilst producing energy efficiencies higher than 99 per cent. 

Dr Giorgia Longobardi, CEO and founder of CGD, said: “Alain’s profound knowledge of the semiconductor industry and renowned expertise will be instrumental in helping CGD in its mission to create green electronics and deliver a more sustainable future in some of the most power-intensive industries. 

“We are determined to change the electronics market with innovative products that help to solve problems through world-class engineering.” 

Dr Charles said: “Cooperating with so many friends, high calibre professionals and fresh engineers is exciting. The development in the industry that CGD is working on will help to emphasise the key role of GaN based power electronic to build a more energy efficient world.”

Dr Charles is the fourth addition to the CGD board following its successful $9.5m Series A fundraising, with Tim Rae, Ed Stacey and Nick Mettyear – partners of venture capital backers BGF, IQ Capital and Foresight Williams – bringing deep industrial expertise and their networks.

Cambridge GaN Devices was spun-out by Professor Florin Udrea and Dr Giorgia Longobardi from Cambridge University in 2016 to exploit a revolutionary technology in power devices. 

Through his international career, Dr Charles was involved in most of the key technology changes of the semiconductor industry, like subwavelength pattern printing, to larger wafer (300mm) technology development to power efficiency and introduction of wide bandgap semiconductors.   

His international career started from driving Optical lithography efforts at Motorola Mesa site (AZ, USA) and later ST-Microelectronics factory in Carrollton, (TX, USA). 

He later joined Motorola-Siemens JV in Dresden, Germany, pioneering 300mm Silicon manufacturing and was part of the team that produced the first 64Mbit DRAM on 300mm wafers in 1998. 

He then managed Fab5 and Fab3 engineering teams at Silicon Foundry Chartered Semiconductor (today Global Foundries) in Singapore. 

In 2003 he joined International Rectifier power device technology development team, in Newport to finally head the silicon technology development team for all discrete power devices from company headquarters in El Segundo, California. 

After acquisition of International Rectifier by Infineon Technologies, he took the worldwide responsibility for the Gallium Nitride technology development initiative within the company. In 2021 he created his own power semiconductor-focused consulting company.

Originally published on Business Weekly’s website.