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Microsystems – Fuelling Canada's 21st Century Economy

{toggle author}From the cars we drive, to the computers we use at home and work, to the Internet that puts us in touch with the world - microsystems are at the heart of virtually everything we do. Even the food we eat, clean water we drink, and treatment we receive when we're sick is dramatically improved by advances in microsystems. And just as important, they contribute to economic growth across diverse industrial sectors.


With predicted future applications reliant on sensors and actuators – such as ‘smart dust’ that can detect pathogens in water, analyze toxins in air or assess an entire ecosystem – the opportunities for microsystems to improve our lives, and build our economy, are limitless.

A strategic position in the global supply chain of high value designs of microsystem devices, components and subsystems present a major opportunity for this country.??

The creation and commercialization of new microsystems applications is required to realize the full potential of this enabling technology as an economic driver for Canada.?

Such an objective requires careful planning and foresight. It cannot be left to chance. Nothing less than a national strategy is required to ensure that we benefit fully from the microelectronics and microsystems research of today, through development and commercialization that moves this research out of the laboratory and into companies to bring new products and services to market.

Canada’s opportunity to capitalize on the commercial potential of microsystems cannot be understated. The niche in which Canada excels is in the design and integration of microelectronics chips into systems. A recent survey shows that Canada is second only to the U.S. in the number of fabless chip companies. Ottawa ranks highly as a locale for fabless chip companies, the second highest ranking non-U.S. city behind Tel Aviv.

Global market opportunities for microsystems are growing- the numbers speak for themselves:

?Ø Global sales of electronic systems production reached US$878 billion last year and are slated to top US$1 trillion within two years;
?Ø By 2010, electronics dependant upon microsystems will account for 35 per cent of the cost of an automobile, up from 18 per cent in 2002 and just 2 per cent in 1974.
?Ø Growth projections for certain niche sectors are also impressive: biometric sensors (110 per cent) laboratory-on-chip (33 per cent), microfluidics (30 per cent), laboratory-on-a-chip detection of biological/chemical agents (25 per cent) and biomedical microsystems (20 per cent).

CMC offers Canada a critical head start. CMC works with over 40 Canadian universities and colleges to enable world class microsystems research by providing professors and post-graduate students with access to the industry-grade tools and technologies for microsystems design, fabrication and testing that would otherwise be inaccessible or unaffordable. This includes the development of working microsystems prototypes required to move research to product. ??They are a pre-requisite for industry or venture capital investment and ultimately for increased commercialization. Working prototypes reduce R&D risk, offer companies a competitive edge and faster time to market.?

This impact is illustrated by the 71 start-ups enabled or influenced by CMC from 1994 – 2003.? This is just a start. In future, CMC will take a systematic approach to increase pre-competitive research, a key link in the commercialization process to increase Canada’s return on research investment, and the social and economic benefit for Canadians.? But it will take much more than CMC.

A strategy directed to microsystems is required to achieve our national objectives – from the cost-effective delivery of innovative applications in health care, to the stewarding of our natural resources, and management of our environment – and fulfill Canada’s potential as a leader in the global economy.