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The Limits to 'Spin-Off': UK Defence R and D and the Development of Gallium Arsenide Technology

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    Rights statement: © Cambridge University Press. Spinardi, G. (2012). The Limits to 'Spin-Off': UK Defence R&D and the Development of Gallium Arsenide Technology. British Journal for the History of Science, 45(1), 97-121, doi: 10.1017/S000708741100063X

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)97-121
JournalBritish Journal for the History of Science
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2012


UK defence R & D played a leading role in the development of gallium arsenide and other III–V semiconductor materials. Often touted as the semiconductor of the future because of its potential for high-speed computing, gallium arsenide had unique properties compared to silicon that made it attractive for military applications. Some consumer applications were also developed, and these eventually became significant with its use in mobile phone handsets in the mid-1990s. However, despite the apparent advantage of close links to the defence establishments and early access to expertise in III–V technologies, UK companies had limited success in these civil markets, preferring instead to focus on defence procurement.

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