THE semiconductor plant at Roborough, on the outskirts of Plymouth, is not everyone’s idea of architectural beauty. It has the gas-storage containers and vacuum pumps that are a familiar part of the industrial landscape. Prince Charles, who opened the factory in 1987, said it looked like a high-tech Victorian prison.
The plant was built by Plessey, one of Britain’s largest companies until it was carved up in 1989 by two rivals, GEC and Siemens, after a long and bitter takeover battle. Plessey’s old military-equipment business is buried within BAE Systems; the bit that made telephone systems is now part of Ericsson. But its semiconductor arm lives again. The Plymouth plant—and the Plessey name—is coming back to life under Michael LeGoff, a Canadian entrepreneur. His bold bet is that the sort of manufacturing that has drifted eastward can thrive again in Britain