Tech group calls on Canadian government to take action on boosting semiconductor industry
By Tara Deschamps, Canadian PressElectronics Semiconductors Supply Chain associations Canada chips federal governments legislation semiconductors SILICAN
A group of technology organizations is calling on the federal government to bolster Canada’s semiconductor industry or risk talent and companies moving elsewhere.
With the rapid growth of artificial intelligence and advancements in quantum computing, the group known as the Semiconductor Industry Leadership and Innovation Canada Action Network (SILICAN) said Monday that Canada has a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” to set up the country for success in the semiconductor field.
“This is not something that you can kind of sit out or wait,” said Benjamin Bergen, president of the Council of Canadian Innovators, a group supporting the country’s tech industry through advocacy work. “It’s a train that is leaving the station and either you’re on it or you’re not, and being smart and strategic is really going to matter here.”
Bergen’s council, along with CMC Microsystems, Deep Tech Canada, Canada’s Semiconductor Council, Alliance for Semiconductor Innovation Canada and Optonique are SILICAN members. Rounding out SILICAN are the U15 Group of Research Universities, Canadian Innovation Network and the Semiconductor Ecosystem and Centre for Talent and Research.
Technology based around light waves frequently used in medical devices
Bergen said Canada’s semiconductor industry is concentrated on compound semiconductor chips for high-powered machinery like cars and photonics — technology based around light waves that is frequently used in medical devices.
The country also has strength in advanced packaging, which puts chips together and delves into how to connect them and create better systems.
SILICAN thinks the plan should come from a focus on the design components of chips. It is urging the government to prioritize funding cost-effective manufacturing, making more capital available to companies in the sector wanting to scale and supporting development and retention of the semiconductor workforce.
Coordinated effort is actually required
It says Canada could achieve these goals by creating a dedicated office or strategy table for chips policy within the country to ensure it’s focused on expanding and supporting commercial operations.
“That coordinated effort, as banal as it sounds, is actually required in order for us to build successful areas where Canada can lead,” said Bergen.
Funding and addressing gaps in capital and research must come too, along with efforts to attract workers to the industry. SILICAN wants more semiconductor-related scholarships, co-ops and internships, and brainstorming around how to bring top technical talent to Canada.
Bergen is “cautiously optimistic” Canada won’t miss the moment
Failure to act could mean Canada is left out of a burgeoning part of the global economy SILICAN says is forecast to reach $1.3 trillion in sales by 2030. Bergen is “cautiously optimistic” Canada won’t miss the moment because his group has met with the industry ministry and prime minister’s office, who he says was receptive to SILICAN’s concerns.
“Hopefully, now the government is seized with a sense of alacrity in terms of dealing with this,” he said.