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Global chip shortage continues to wreak havoc on supply chains

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The global shortage of semiconductors has impacted the supply of cars and computers already, but job losses and price hikes are also on the cards.

The worldwide chip shortage continues to haunt virtually every industry that requires a semiconductor in its manufacturing process.

One of the hardest hit industries has been the auto sector, which is set to lose $110bn in revenues this year, according to a new analysis from AlixPartners. This is almost twice as much as previous estimates of $60bn.

But it’s not just revenues and supply that automakers need to worry about. Stellantis, the car company formed by the merger of Fiat and Peugeot, said it’s cutting more than 1,600 jobs at its Illinois Jeep plant in a move to “balance sales with production” of the Jeep Cherokee, which is made there.

Earlier this month, the company’s chief financial officer Richard Palmer said that while he expects the shortage to improve later this year, it will possibly leak into 2022. “I think it would be naive to expect it to just disappear,” he said.

His prediction falls in line with many other industry leaders, including Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger who last month said the shortage may take “a couple of years” to sort out.

Outside of the auto industry, manufacturers of computers and other electronic devices have been seeing the impact of the shortage.

Speaking to analysts following Apple’s latest earnings report, the iPhone maker’s chief financial officer, Luca Maestri, predicted a loss of between $3bn and $4bn in sales in the current quarter due to limited supplies of certain chips.

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Consumer prices are also now being affected. According to market research company NPD, the price of larger television models has shot up by around 30pc compared to last summer due to the supply issues caused by the chip crisis.

Some companies have already flagged price hikes, including Taiwanese computer maker Asus and Synaptics, a company that develops various hardware and software including touchpads for computers.

Help on the horizon

While the current chip shortage will take time to rectify, there have been several major investments and strategies announced to stem the current issue and protect the industry from future shortages.

The latest investment comes from South Korea, which last week unveiled its plans to spend around $450bn to build the world’s biggest chipmaking base over the next decade, in an investment led by Samsung Electronics and SK Hynix.

It follows several other boosts from industry players, including a $20bn investment in two new Intel fabrication facilities in Arizona and a $100bn investment by TSMC to boost its manufacturing capacity.

In terms of long-term plans, the EU has already started looking at how it can reduce its dependency on the US and Asia for semiconductors.

Having already set out ambitions for Europe to manufacture one-fifth of the world’s semiconductors by 2030 as part of a new 10-year strategy, the EU has also been considering creating a semiconductor alliance with STMicroelectronics, NXP, Infineon and ASML.

Meanwhile, Reuters reported last Friday (14 May) that US senators were on the cusp of striking a $52bn deal that would significantly boost US chip production and research over the next five years.

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2021 iPhone photography awards – in pictures | Technology

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The 14th annual iPhone photography awards offer glimpses of beauty, hope and the endurance of the human spirit. Out of thousands of submissions, photojournalist Istvan Kerekes of Hungary was named the grand prize winner for his image Transylvanian Shepherds. In it, two rugged shepherds traverse an equally rugged industrial landscape, bearing a pair of lambs in their arms.

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With Alphabet’s legendary commitment to products, we can’t wait to see what its robotics biz Intrinsic achieves • The Register

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Alphabet today launched its latest tech startup, Intrinsic, which aims to build commercial software that will power industrial robots.

Intrinsic will focus on developing software control tools for industrial robots used in manufacturing, we’re told. Its pitch is that the days of humans having to manually program and adjust a robot’s every move are over, and that mechanical bots should be more autonomous and smart, thanks to advances in artificial intelligence and leaps in training techniques.

This could make robots easier to direct – give them a task, and they’ll figure out the specifics – and more efficient – the AI can work out the best way to achieve its goal.

“Over the last few years, our team has been exploring how to give industrial robots the ability to sense, learn, and automatically make adjustments as they’re completing tasks, so they work in a wider range of settings and applications,” said CEO Wendy Tan White.

“Working in collaboration with teams across Alphabet, and with our partners in real-world manufacturing settings, we’ve been testing software that uses techniques like automated perception, deep learning, reinforcement learning, motion planning, simulation, and force control.”

Tan White – a British entrepreneur and investor who was made an MBE by the Queen in 2016 for her services to the tech industry – will leave her role as vice president of X, Alphabet’s moonshot R&D lab, to concentrate on Intrinsic.

She earlier co-founded and was CEO of website-building biz Moonfruit, and helped multiple early-stage companies get up and running as a general partner at Entrepreneur First, a tech accelerator. She is also a board trustee of the UK’s Alan Turing Institute, and member of Blighty’s Digital Economic Council.

“I loved the role I played in creating platforms that inspired the imagination and entrepreneurship of people all over the world, and I’ve recently stepped into a similar opportunity: I’m delighted to share that I’m now leading Intrinsic, a new Alphabet company,” she said.

The new outfit is another venture to emerge from Google-parent Alphabet’s X labs, along with Waymo, the self-driving car startup; and Verily, a biotech biz. ®

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Charles River to create 90 new jobs at Ballina biologics site

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Charles River is expanding its testing capabilities in Ballina as part of its partnership with Covid-19 vaccine manufacturer AstraZeneca.

Contract research organisation Charles River Laboratories is planning an €8m site expansion in Ballina to facilitate batch release testing for Covid-19 vaccines from AstraZeneca.

The expansion at the Mayo site will create an additional 1,500 sq m of lab space and 90 highly skilled jobs in the area over the next three years.

Click here to check out the top sci-tech employers hiring right now.

The company provides longstanding partners AstraZeneca with outsourced regulated safety and development support on a range of treatments and vaccines, including testing and facilitating the deployment of Vaxzevria for Covid-19 and Fluenz for seasonal infleunza.

The latest investment follows earlier expansions at the Ballina site and Charles River recently announced plans to establish a dedicated laboratory space to handle testing of SARS-CoV-2 and other similar pathogens that cause human disease.

“We are incredibly proud of the transformational changes we have implemented on site and the role that Charles River has played in supporting the safe and timely roll-out of AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine,” said Liam McHale, site director for Charles River Ballina.

“Throughout the pandemic, our site remained fully operational while keeping our employees safe and having a positive impact on human health. Our expanded facility will provide us with the increased capacity needed to continue the essential services we provide to our clients.”

Charles River acquired the Ballina facility, which focuses on biologics testing, in 2002. The company employs 230 people at its two facilities in Ireland, including the Mayo site and a site in Dublin, established in 2017, which serves as the EMEA and APAC headquarters for the company’s microbial solutions division.

IDA Ireland is supporting the expansion. Mary Buckley, executive director of the agency, said Charles River is an “employer of long standing” in Co Mayo.

“The enhancement of its product lines and the development of additional capability at the Ballina facility is most welcome,” she added. “Today’s announcement is strongly aligned to IDA Ireland’s regional pillar and its continued commitment to winning jobs and investment in regional locations.”

Dan Wygal, country president for AstraZeneca Ireland, added: “Our Covid-19 vaccine, Vaxzevria, undergoes extremely robust safety and quality testing prior to becoming available for patients. We are committed to bringing safe, effective vaccines to Ireland and other markets as quickly as possible, and Charles River will continue to be an important partner in this regard.”

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