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Canadian microsystems industry struts its stuff

The week of October 4th, 2010 was a very exciting week for Canada's microsystems community as it gathered in Ottawa for the big annual Microsystems event which combines the CMC Symposium on Microsystems R&D in Canada with the ITAC Semiconductor Executive Forum.


This year’s CMC Symposium theme, Sensing Action, drew almost 200 people with attendees from a broad spectrum of academic organizations, researchers and industrial suppliers.

Sensing Action was focused on Sensor Network Technologies and the MEMS, photonics, fluidics, microelectronics and embedded systems research that go into creating such networks. Topics included component technologies, network topologies, and system algorithms that help realize networked sensor/actuator-based systems with pervasive intelligence. Applications areas spanned from point-of-care medicine, to structural health monitoring, to harsh environmental testing.

On the first day CMC industrial partners provided complimentary training classes to attendees on a wide range of topics. Experts such as Dr. Mary Ann Maher of Softmems presented topics such as “The Design of Electronic Systems incorporating MEMs” which showed how simulations of MEMS, electronics and packaging can be described using Verilog-A, SPICE and Matlab as well as various methods for modeling MEMS. Finally, MEMS mask layout and design rule checking was covered.

October 5th saw the symposium begin with keynote presentations from Dr. Bozena Kaminska from Simon Fraser University and a great talk titled “Sensing and Computing Beyond the Ordinary” and a MEMS market update presentation from Jeffery Perkins of Yole Inc.

The program then went deep into health sciences with Dr. Roman Genov from the University of Toronto presenting “Amperometric Neurochemical and DNA Microarrays,” Dr. Sylvain Martel from Ecole Polytechnique presenting “Sensing Inside the Human Body with Microsystems, Microelectronics and Bacteria” and Dr. Doug Thomson from the University of Manitoba presenting “Wireless sensing for Structural Health Monitoring.”

The morning finished with Ruth Rayman from NRC speaking on “Sensor Networks for Smart and Healthy Buildings.” In the afternoon Dr. Ted Sargent of University of Toronto presented “Sensing Light and Sensing Life: Integrating Novel Nanomaterials with Established Semiconductor Technologies,” followed by Dr. John Yeow from the University of Waterloo who presented “Solid State Sensors for Harsh Environments.”

The afternoon closed with a great presentation from industrial speaker Al Bryenton of Biopeak Corporation speaking on “Mobile Physiological Sensors for Research in Real End-User Environments”. Bryenton also demonstrated his company’s latest wearable non-invasive physiology monitor showing that the future is already here.

At the Canadian Microsystems Awards Banquet that evening CMC recognized the contribution of Dr. Adam Kinsman from McMaster University by awarding him the Dr. Doug Colton Award for Research Excellence for his work in “the development of new computer-aided methods that enable the design of reliable, cost-effective and high-performance embedded systems.”
ITAC then presented the ITAC semiconductor industry Outstanding Service Awards to Dr. Adel Sedra and Dr. K.C. Smith.

Day 3 of this busy week opened with ITAC’s 16th National Microelectronics Executive Forum entitled “Entrepreneurial Opportunities Enabled Through Microsystems.” While the giants of the microelectronics industry do battle with the fundamentals of physics, a small group of Canadian pioneers are pursuing a “More than Moore” strategy for creating new technologies and new business opportunities in microsystems.

Presentations included Microsoft’s Daniel Wigdor talking about “Enabling The future of Diverse User Interfaces” and Softmems Mary Ann Maher talking about “MEMS Today-Microsystems Tomorrow.” Some very interesting content came from number of interactive panel discussions talking on topics such as “Can manufacturing Technologies Meet Market Need?”, “Canada’s Opportunity for Growth Through Microsystems” and “Can Canada Build a World Leading Ecosystem?”

Panelists included a broad array of Canada’s Microsystems leaders including Normand Bourbannais from IBM Bromont, Jean Proulx from Abbott Point of Care, Brian Doody from Dalsa, Cormac O”Connell from TSMC Canada, Dr. Praveen Jain from SPARQ Systems and Paul Kempf from RIM. Conversation was open and interactive and at times heated but it was clear the leaders of the Canadian microsystems industry are all very passionate that Canadian companies can be successful industry players on the international stage.

By far one of the more interesting discussions was about how to recreate the energy, synergy and drive of Silicon Valley in Canada. Many opinions prevailed but the underlying consensus seemed to be you can force it to happen you can only try to nurture it and watch it grow organically.

Overall the event was a very exciting opportunity for Canada’s microsystems companies to get out and network and learn from each other and to help promote the growth, innovation and entrepreneurial drive that has always characterized this industry sector.

www.cmc.ca/

Nick Deeble is president and CEO of Deeble Sales Management (www.deeblesales.com) and a member of the Canadian Electronics Editorial Advisory Board.