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Pragmatic on influencing the UK government’s semiconductor strategy

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By The Drum | Editorial

December 7, 2023 | 7 min read

Pragmatic and Brands2Life have won the Public Affairs category at The Drum Awards for PR. Here is the award-winning case study.

Check out the award-winning campaign

A high growth deep-tech company headquartered in Cambridge, Pragmatic manufactures flexible integrated circuits thinner than a human hair, which are significantly cheaper, faster, and have a lower carbon footprint to produce than silicon chips. They can be embedded into almost anything, bringing connectivity and intelligence to everyday objects.

Business Challenge

Pragmatic had an oversubscribed Series C funding round and ambitious growth plans for both the UK and globally, but considered the existing UK political and economic landscape for high-cost manufacturing companies to be inadequate. This was impacting Pragmatic’s success, but also the UK’s wider semiconductor industry, which has already fallen behind markets such as Taiwan and the US. In particular, the UK’s reliance on semiconductors abroad meant it had experienced serious shortages, impacting a huge range of wider manufacturing capabilities. The Government had promised for some time to produce a Semiconductor Strategy, charting a course ahead for the sector. The contents of this Strategy are crucial to Pragmatic, and its ongoing UK operations. And while Pragmatic is fairly unique in the type of semiconductor it manufacturers, the market is incredibly crowded with other designers and manufacturers all pushing their own agenda to government and media.

Objectives

Pragmatic’s goal was to influence the Government’s forthcoming Semiconductor Strategy (and therefore the economic landscape it was operating in).

Strategy

Our strategy was to position Pragmatic as the authoritative voice on both the UK semiconductor industry and the wider high-growth science and technology landscape to the most important political figures influencing the sector’s development. We, therefore, created a campaign platform and narrative targeted at Government stakeholders, supported by a comprehensive media campaign. We planned to provide constructive guidance for these political stakeholders around what high growth technology, manufacturing and more specifically, semiconductor companies need, to secure meetings, build relationships and ultimately help shape the business landscape for this industry through government.

Research

Primary audience: senior ministers, shadow ministers and backbench parliamentarians. These Ministers care deeply about science and technology, considering the Prime Minister’s personal interest in the subject matter. We spoke with a wide range of parliamentarians, civil servants, and advisors to tailor our messages for our audience and their key interests.

Creativity

The campaign needed clear and constructive opinion from Pragmatic on what the government’s Semiconductor Strategy needed to include and how it could better support UK science and tech businesses. It also needed to be bold enough to gain traction with national media. We started with an in-depth position paper, backed by market research across UK-based high growth businesses, and a message house which outlined exactly what the deep-tech and semiconductor industry needed to thrive. This gave us the proof points required to allow Pragmatic to credibly comment on the industry within the media through a series of tailored messages; something which it had never attempted to do before.

Execution

We undertook a direct engagement program with politicians and their advisors to ensure Pragmatic built strong relationships with key political stakeholders, delivering a consistent message across our political and media engagement to ensure that Pragmatic’s messages cut through and were front-of-mind. Our mapping and engagement evolved constantly, considering who was prominent in the debate at any one time, and to reflect changes in government, moving quickly to speak to new Ministers coming in and parliamentarians coming to prominence.

To lend additional credibility to Pragmatic as a voice in the wider science and technology debate, we also prepared a campaign based around a report, focusing on the UK Government’s ambition for the country to be a science and technology superpower. We secured a wide range of senior stakeholders including policymakers, business leaders, industry bodies and think tanks, to join Pragmatic’s roundtable discussion on this topic in the Palace of Westminster, chaired by Paul Howell, Member of Parliament for Sedgefield. We also undertook research of business leaders, to identify areas where they felt the Government was falling short. This research was fed into both the report and the wider media campaign.

This resulted in a Pragmatic branded report with recommendations on how to achieve UK science superpower status and was presented to stakeholders across Westminster, Whitehall and the science and technology sector. These were identified as influencers on government policies that would support Pragmatic’s growth. This report was used as a hook to secure meetings through to email engagement, and was fed into the relevant advisors and Government departments. Immediately preceding the release of the Strategy, we worked closely with the Government to prepare quick reaction for a range of scenarios and ensure that, on the day of launch, Pragmatic’s voice was being heard loud and clear across our stakeholder network. This was supported by an agile news hijacking program, using news stories around science and technology every week, pitching short, bold opinion and clear messages from Pragmatic’s Co-Founders. This landed constant, hard-hitting national and broadcast coverage and was constantly picked up by government stakeholders including direct responses to Pragmatic on press articles.

Results

Policymaker impact, we secured:

25 stakeholder meetings, including the Minister responsible for the Semiconductor Strategy and Number 10 Downing Street.

Oral and written parliamentary questions about Pragmatic and the semiconductor industry

An invitation for Pragmatic’s Co-Founder to the Government’s Business Connect events; to join Minister George Freeman’s Future Forum on Technology Investment; and to attend the Treasury Connect: Advanced Manufacturing

Securing support from Number 10 for the Prime Minister to open Pragmatic’s new manufacturing facility (Sept 23).

A quote from Pragmatic’s CEO within the press release announcing the Government’s Semiconductor Strategy

The founder of Pragmatic securing a seat on the government’s semiconductor advisory group, launched in July 2023

Business impact:

75% increase in traffic to Pragmatic’s website during the Semiconductor strategy launch, with higher visitor numbers continuing

250% increase in business enquiries and sales leads

The Government’s Strategy included:

A headline focus on compound semiconductors (i.e. Pragmatic’s technology), no mention of other non-silicon forms of semiconductors

A specific reference to Pragmatic in the strategy including its growth, application potential, and unique technology

Factoring specific support around manufacturing in the forthcoming autumn semiconductor strategy

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