How green is your Valley? Pragmatic Semiconductor CEO takes a clear-eyed view of the Silicon Cluster debate

28 Mar, 2024
Tony Quested
As someone who has spent most of his executive career working in Silicon Valley, Pragmatic Semiconductor CEO David Moore is well placed to contribute to the debate over whether the Californian tech ecosystem should be replicated in Cambridge lock stock and smoking barrel.
Pragmatic Semiconductor CEO David Moore. Image courtesy of Pragmatic.

With regards to prevailing culture and economic objectives, Moore can make a good argument for saying the two tech clusters already ARE kindred spirits without the need to be physical copycats.

He believes that is certainly true in terms of innovation capability. Whether Cambridge UK would want to adopt the wider infrastructure issues – think housing, roads and essential utilities – that come with growing a tech hub to the scale of the Valley is another matter entirely, Moore believes.

A perfect fit for Pragmatic, Dubliner Moore is of the firm opinion that there are no short cuts to success for a technology business, wherever it calls home. While a few might get lucky to achieve their aims, the vast majority of established successful companies have followed a demonstrable strategic roadmap to scale their enterprise, he argues.

In many regards Cambridge and Silicon Valley share similarities such as numbers of unicorns produced, quality of ecosystem including outstanding universities, bright graduates and entrepreneurial support.

But he notes that even the Valley doesn’t have volume chip fabs anymore – and even US companies open satellite operations away from a Valley HQ from where they are able to recruit indigenous talent.

As he oversees exciting growth for Pragmatic from Cambridge and Durham in the North East, Moore cites the formula for long-term business scale-up that he believes is standard the world over. And it is mainly all to do with strategy rather than serendipity.

He tells me: “Pragmatic’s management have thought ahead and planned accordingly. When deciding to scale manufacturing facilities in the UK it assessed multiple locations and determined that the North East, with 30-plus years’ experience in the sector, would be a great place to build not just one fab but many fabs – and that is exactly the roadmap the company is following.

“Just because a company with a global outlook bases its HQ in a certain location doesn’t mean that the same place would be suitable for the entire business as it seeks to grow.

“We’re proud to be headquartered in Cambridge with all its advantages, but we see huge benefits in locating certain operations and business functions to leverage regional talent and experience too.

“We have ambitious growth plans. I am focused on leading the organisation to deliver today and also looking to what lies ahead. For me, that’s all about recruiting and retaining top talent with a consistent focus on our customers’ needs.

“Pragmatic is on an accelerated growth journey and that organic growth will allow us to ramp from billions of ICs to tens of billions, to create a company that builds on the strategic strengths of different places on the map.”

That Pragmatic’s roadmap is sound can hardly be questioned: Moore tells me the company has hired 100 excellent people in the past year alone and will be hiring a further 140 talented individuals in Cambridge and the North East in the near term, drawing heavily on the “great heritage and ecosystem” endemic in both territories.

“We believe we will need 500 additional hires in the UK over the next five years as we scale our capacity to tens of billions of chips per year and beyond,” he confides. “Rather than chase the thousands of people required to operate typical fabs of that capacity, for example, our uniquely efficient manufacturing footprint and process allows us to get to where we want to be in that timescale and that, by pursuing that strategy we will be adhering to a model that is executable and sustainable.

“You CAN get lucky in scaling a company overnight but, in the main, consistent growth is about keeping a laser focus on where the customers and commercial opportunities are; knowing what talent is required at different stages of the business growth cycle so you are building sustainably to optimise growth – pace and size.”

Moore has been with Pragmatic in Cambridge for a year now having spent most of his career based in the US in senior operating positions with globally leading semiconductor companies. Most recently, he served as Chief Strategy Officer at NASDAQ-quoted Micron Technology, Inc. where he had group-wide accountability for a range of corporate functions including Corporate Strategy, M & A and Venture Capital, Global Communications, Marketing and Government Affairs.

Prior to Micron, he spent six years at Intel Corporation – another NASDAQ legend – in a number of executive leadership roles, most latterly as General Manager of the Programmable Solutions Group where he led the multi-billion-dollar FPGA and Structured ASIC business on a global basis for the company.

His previous experience includes senior engineering and business leadership positions in both the US and overseas at Altera Corporation, a pioneer in programmable logic, where he spent over 15 years prior to its acquisition by Intel in 2015.