Semiconductor Leaders Meet in Nation’s Capital to Plot Industry Growth

Ottawa, November 24, 2023: Startups, academics, industry veterans, and government policy analysts met in Ottawa November 23 and 24 at the 2023 Canadian Semiconductor Symposium. The highly interactive sessions identified significant growth opportunities for the industry, some concerns, and sage advice from players across the Canadian semiconductor ecosystem including founder and Chairman of Wesley Clover International, Sir Terrence Matthews.

“We organized the Symposium because it’s been way too long since this industry has had a national-level ecosystem event. It was crucial to bring together semiconductor ecosystem leaders now, as the semiconductor industry is at a critical juncture” noted Gordon Harling, President & CEO of CMC Microsystems.  “It was especially valuable to bring together the many organizations aiming to seize the opportunities of semiconductors, including Optonique, SILICAN, Photons Canada, Canadian Semiconductor Council (CSC), Semiconductor Ecosystem & Center for Talent & Research (SECTR), and Business Development Bank of Canada – Deep Tech Fund, our lead partner for the Symposium.”  

Omer Kaya of Global Advantage Consulting presented on the Canadian semiconductor ecosystem in a global economic and geopolitical context.  Semiconductors are top of mind across the nation for business and government, in large part because the global pandemic showed us how important it is for us to develop a resilient domestic semiconductor supply chain.  Canada is among many countries around the world revisiting their over-reliance on offshore manufacturing, and strengthening domestic manufacturing capacity. The Canada-US semiconductor manufacturing corridor was mentioned throughout the Symposium as an important avenue for the industry.    

On the semiconductor manufacturing front, attendees heard from large and small players in Canada, such as Claude Jean, CEO of Teledyne MEMS and Mirwais Aktary, CEO of Applied Nanotools.  The presentations, panel sessions, and conversations made clear – Canada would benefit tremendously from a new semiconductor manufacturing facility, and it would be sensible if it were for a niche technology area in which we already excel such as compound semiconductors, widely used in sensors, electric vehicles (EVs), and other applications set for exponential growth.  The strategic value of this technology was echoed by Velko Tzolov of the NRC Canadian Photonics Fabrication Centre (CPFC), Tom MacElwee from Infineon Technologies (previously GaN Systems), and Jim Hjartarson of Inpho Inc. (previously ELPHiC).

Many presentations discussed how advances in semiconductor technology can address climate change. Between data centers consuming the power of entire metropolitan cities, intensive artificial intelligence applications, mass adoption of EVs, and more, efficient, low-power consuming chip technologies are urgently needed.

Startups and medium-sized firms are also in need of support as they look to scale-up. Duncan Stewart of BDC reminded attendees during a lively panel that Canada performs at twice the productivity of other countries in terms of research but one-quarter the productivity of translating that research for commercial benefit to Canada. He urged innovators in Canada to be ambitious and adopt a strategic mindset to grow their firms.    

Day two of the event featured semiconductor startups and scaleups showcasing the growth opportunities they were chasing. Companies presented included Hyperlume, Blumind AI, Spectra Plasmonics, Boréas Technologies, Edgewater Wireless, Axonal Networks, Enurgen, ICSPI, and SiliconIntervention. These entrepreneurs benefited from exposure and feedback from investors, venture capitalists, technologists, fellow inventors, and founders.  

In addition to industry-leading technical expertise, presentations at the Symposium also provided an opportunity for stakeholders in policy and business to better understand the Canadian semiconductor ecosystem “This event was perfect for a bootcamp briefing on the semiconductor industry in Canada” noted Jordan Smith, Partner at Deloitte LLP, “I’ll be back next year.”

CMC Microsystems will be presenting this event annually. The semiconductor industry is at a crossroads, and the Canadian semiconductor ecosystem will evolve rapidly and play a key role on the global scene.

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