Electronic Products & Technology

Canada’s Semiconductor Council releases action plan

Aims to build chip-fuelled economy by 2050 and thriving domestic semiconductor sector

November 23, 2021  EP&T Magazine

Canada’s Semiconductor Council releases a comprehensive action plan to transform Canada into a leader in the US$7 trillion global semiconductor market. As the global chip shortage continues to wreak havoc on Canada’s supply chain and economy, the 106-page report, titled Roadmap to 2050: Canada’s Semiconductor Action Planlays out short-term, medium-term, and long-term recommendations to build Canada’s semiconductor industry. The action plan positions Canada to be a developer, manufacturer, and global supplier of the semiconductor products that are embedded in our most innovative technologies, including electric vehicles, medical devices, consumer electronics, precision agriculture and more.

Investing in the domestic semiconductor industry

Drawing on data-driven insights from more than 100 industry stakeholders, the report highlights the potential Canada has to develop a resilient semiconductor sector that will fuel economic growth. Despite lagging behind major chip markets such as Taiwan, China, Israel, and the U.S., investing in a domestic semiconductor industry will enable Canada to better navigate supply chain fluctuations, manage shifting international relations, and become a leader in emerging industries such as quantum computing, artificial intelligence, battery production, and clean tech.

“Our Council formed because we’re in the midst of a global shortage of semiconductors and the time to act is now,” says Sarah Prevette, Chair of Canada’s Semiconductor Council and CEO Future Design School. “Canada has homegrown STEM talent, access to critical raw materials, and a strong foundation in research, innovation, and design. Today’s report is a roadmap for how we can seize the opportunity before us.”

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Introducing Roadmap to 2050: Canada’s Semiconductor Action Plan

The action plan makes recommendations based on four overarching goals:

  1. Strengthen and Diversify the Supply Chain 

In Canada, and around the world, the urgent need for semiconductors is impacting production and supply. In order to shore up supply of critically-needed chips, Canada must act swiftly and in a unified manner. Companies and industries must come together and secure our imported supply of chips, and at the same time establish a case for increasing domestic production.

  1. Develop Onshore Manufacturing

Manufacturing semiconductors is a costly and time-consuming endeavour. However, given the growing global demand for semiconductors, domestic production would yield tremendous economic benefits for Canada. To achieve this: (1) we must understand which semiconductors are in the highest demand and establish a business model for fabricating those chips; (2) Canada’s environmental and political stability and international partnerships must be used to attract multinational semiconductor manufacturing partnerships; and (3) Canadian engineering talent must improve upon the traditional fabrication process and pioneer a more flexible approach.

  1. Establish a Unique Specialization and Brand for Canada

There are two key areas where Canada can specialize within the semiconductor sector: (1) design and R&D, and (2) electric vehicles, batteries, and sensors. These two broad areas lend themselves to Canada’s existing expertise and top engineering talent. Both of these sectors are poised for significant growth, support a wide range of important domestic industries, and present significant opportunities for Canada to establish itself as a vital hub of innovation in the value chain.

  1. Foster Innovation and Support Market Development

Companies in the semiconductor sector require significant amounts of funding and can take years to scale and see a return. Because of the steep and ongoing capital needs throughout the lifespan of a semiconductor company, Canadian VCs and angel investors alone cannot provide sufficient funding. As a result, a mix of public partnerships, programs, and incentives are required to support growth in the Canadian semiconductor industry.

Arun Iyengar, CEO of Untether AI, a Canadian AI chip manufacturer, which recently raised $125M for its expansion and product development in Canada, participated as one of the industry stakeholders. In the report, he comments: “Even in the US, up until around 2016, if you were a chip company, no VC would really talk to you and you’d have to operate on a shoestring for a long time. AI has changed all that and 5G has the potential to do the same. Both have brought in a renewed focus on what I call ‘the golden age of silicon’ back again, because it’s been a while since there has been this resurgence of interest in silicon.”

A robust semiconductor strategy in Canada has the potential to generate a wealth of economic and employment opportunities, provide domestic solutions to address vital supply chain needs, and support a huge array of businesses and service providers.

“Achieving such an ambitious vision that enables Canada to leapfrog and establish undisputable leadership in the global semiconductor supply chain requires a long-term commitment from the public sector, private industry, and the broader ecosystem,” explains Melissa Chee, Vice-Chair of Canada’s Semiconductor Council and CEO of ventureLAB. “This is Canada’s moment to show the world that we have the brightest minds, significant capital, and attractive government policies to modernize and future-proof our most prominent resource-based and economic sectors — those that are highly dependent on semiconductors and key to building a resilient economic recovery and sustainable, long-term growth.”

 


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