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Exploiting The New Era Of Microsystems

By Nick Deeble, Account Director (Canada),Cadence Design Systems Inc.Twenty years ago, innovative collaboration and investment from the federal government and what is now Nortel Networks led to the development of a unique organization that provides nationally-distributed infrastructure for microsystems research at our universities. A key driver to the growth of Canadian industry and the envy of our global competitors, Canadian Microelectronics Corp. (CMC) enables Canada to compete aggressively in the new era of microsystems.


Today, CMC is not only inside our universities – it is inside many products, companies and highly qualified people who stimulate research and development across diverse industrial sectors. With the launch of a new strategic plan for 2005-2010, CMC is well positioned to accelerate Canada’s competitiveness through microsystems. Why should Canadian companies take an active interest in CMC? Three simple reasons: innovation, profit and skilled workers.
 For those who may not already know, CMC is a national fourth pillar organization that builds bridges across diverse scientific disciplines and industry sectors for microsystems research, development and innovation on behalf of the other three pillars: government, academia and industry. Working closely with many industry leaders such as Cadence Design Systems, CMC provides millions of dollars worth of industry-grade tools and technologies to over 2,300 researchers in more than 40 Canadian universities.
 Professors and graduate students depend on CMC’s products and services to design, manufacture and test microsystems concepts, to develop physical and virtual prototypes for proof-of-concept. They benefit from CMC’s cost-effective diffusion of technology, which enables their participation in the entire R&D cycle. The only model of its kind anywhere in the world, CMC has placed Canada years ahead of other countries with regards to research programs and infrastructure – giving Canadian companies a distinct competitive advantage in the global economy.
 Microsystems include enabling technologies such as microelectronics, photonics, optoelectronics, micromachining, microfluidics, embedded software and progressively, nano-scale phenomena. The pervasiveness of these technologies is often invisible to the eye – and yet, they underpin the everyday products and services that improve our quality of life.
 Microsystems are in the vehicles that drive our highways everyday. In blood and DNA analysis, they enable the return of speedier results. They protect our drinking water and safeguard our food; and they help us to organize our lives with a multitude of electronic devices that we have come to rely on everyday. The global market opportunity in electronic systems production is estimated to exceed US$1 trillion in 2006 – and microsystems are a key element in this market. If Canada wants to capitalize on this global market opportunity, CMC must not only survive but thrive. 
 When it comes to describing CMC’s impact on the Canadian economy, the numbers speak for themselves. For example, over the past five years, CMC has helped to make possible:
?Ø $1 billion corporate revenue attributed to graduates (using average revenue/employee data) who benefited from CMC;
?Ø $50 million of private sector investment in university/industry research stimulated by CMC;
?Ø and 290 patents and technology licences enabled or influenced by CMC. 
 This data helps to demonstrate the pivotal contribution of CMC to the development of Canadian industry – but there are many more.
Canada simply would not have had the companies we do today without CMC.  For example, Silicon Valley North exploded on to the global radar with information and communications technology companies in the Nineties, taking the international market by storm. I would challenge anyone to identify another sector where venture capitalists flocked to a Canadian region because we had something they did not: experienced engineering graduates enabled by CMC. Investors want to exploit and capitalize on our greatest asset – our people.
 CMC is directly responsible for the systematic development of highly qualified specialists who make Canada internationally competitive. As microsystems are incorporated into products across diverse industrial sectors, CMC can replicate the impact it has had on Canada’s information and communications technology (ICT) capability many times over.
 CMC enables the development of Canadian talent that is sought after around the world. Engineers and scientists with ?´CMC inside’ help companies achieve faster time to profitability – this is attributed to their hands-on experience with advanced tools and technologies found in industry today. Companies have access to employees who are capable of contributing to the work force immediately after graduation, with ramp-up that would typically take three years to meet industry standards.
 CMC is proactively focusing on the need to develop the range of expertise required to exploit global market opportunities and supply chains. CMC helps to facilitate research collaboration across diverse scientific disciplines and industrial sectors – research that stimulates the development of microsystems for future applications. The integration of multiple technologies onto microsystems platforms is a key challenge in the realization of these future products.  As such, CMC is increasingly enabling the investigation of complex problems and exploration of new idea spaces by multidisciplinary teams. These are the highly qualified people who will leverage the combination of microsystems technologies to boost Canada’s contribution to knowledge-intensive components in Canadian exports, build new companies and create high-value jobs that stimulate economic activity
and generate wealth for Canadians.
 Moving research ideas from the lab to the market continues to be an increasing focus for CMC. Many of the ideas and innovations fostered during graduate research emerge as newly commercialized technologies. They form the foundation for new Canadian start-up companies, or stimulate further research and development in Canada’s private sector. For example, from 1996-2003, CMC enabled or influenced 71 start-ups that microsystems researchers in Canadian universities reported creating, and over 70 per cent of the microsystems-related technology licenses, patents and industry interactions. 
 CMC provides access to manufacturing services for more than 90 per cent of the microsystems prototypes developed by university researchers. Engineers and scientists from Memorial University to the University of Victoria can transform their microsystems concepts into working prototypes – an increasing prerequisite for their future adoption by industry. Researchers who can produce a proof-of-concept device are well positioned to convince investors that their ideas are not simply hypothetical – they can be made to work.
 CMC’s strategic vision encompasses a national initiative that is focused on stimulating microsystems research and technology development (R&TD) that will help Canadian companies become global suppliers of high value-added designs of microsystems devices, components and sub-systems to diverse industrial sectors.    
 Innovative vision, collaboration and investment from government and industry will be required to realize our national potential in microsystems.  The time is now – microsystems must be identified as a national priority. Intense global competition, fueled by strategic microsystems investments made by governments of other countries, is putting Canada’s competitiveness at risk. A strategic investment is required and CMC is uniquely positioned to facilitate and guide this investment. The bottom line: CMC will accelerate competitiveness through microsystems and generate economic and social benefit for Canadians.