Canada’s Semiconductor Council Releases Action Plan; Aims to Build Chip-Fuelled Economy by 2050
‘Roadmap to 2050: Canada’s Semiconductor Action Plan’ envisions a thriving domestic semiconductor sector and a modern economy; includes recommendations from more than 100 stakeholders
MARKHAM, ON, Nov 23, 2021 – Today, 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 Plan, lays 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.
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.”
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.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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.”
Founding members of Canada’s Semiconductor Council include Sarah Prevette, Chair, Angel Investor, CEO Future Design School; Melissa Chee, Vice-Chair; President & CEO, ventureLAB; Kevin O’Neil, Corporate Vice President and Managing Director, AMD Canada; and Salim Teja, Partner, Radical Ventures.
Additional Quotes from Canada’s Semiconductor Council:
“We’re looking at a once-in-a-generation opportunity to build an extremely prosperous industry from the ground up. In order to get there, our tech leaders of the future need major investment now — and from multiple sources. We need an all-hands-on-deck approach to give our homegrown talent every opportunity to scale and flourish right here in Canada. If we get this right, our economy stands to benefit in countless and unforeseen ways.” – Salim Teja, Partner, Radical Ventures.
“Around the world, the term ‘Made in Canada’ carries a lot of weight, and we in the advanced manufacturing industry need to wear that badge with pride! We have all of the expertise and resources needed to design the brains that underpin virtually all emerging technologies. With industries such as electric vehicles and battery production absolutely taking off, establishing ourselves as a semiconductor design powerhouse is one of the smartest moves Canada could make.” – Kevin O’Neil, Corporate Vice President and Managing Director, AMD Canada
Quotes from Industry Stakeholders in the report:
“If you look at Korea or Israel, there is a very clear pathway to commercialization and that pathway to commercialization starts locally. I don’t think anybody in Canada who has produced a chip has ever been able to sell to any of the large Canadian players, whether it’s the military, telecommunications firms, or any of those. If you can create a market locally, you can create more money coming in from the venture capitalists. You can drive entire ecosystems.” – Sally Daub, CEO and Founder, ViXS
“Nations like the UK, US, and the EU are all committing dollars now to bringing silicon manufacturing production on-shore so that they have control of at least part of their supply chain. There’s not a peep coming out of Canada on this. It’s a barrier.” – Tony Pialis, Co-Founder and CEO, Alphawave
“Countries like China, South Korea, and the US view advanced semiconductors as fundamental to national security. The potential crisis for Canada is a situation where semiconductors become a national security issue. From a manufacturing perspective, we have minimal infrastructure to support that.” – Ron Glibbery, CEO and Founder, Peraso
About Roadmap to 2050: Canada’s Semiconductor Action Plan
Formed in May 2021, Canada’s Semiconductor Council engaged with more than 100 leading industry stakeholders from across Canada to create Roadmap to 2050: Canada’s Semiconductor Action Plan. The stakeholders provided insights and input either through 1:1 interviews, roundtables, or via survey. Stakeholders came from three distinct areas: (1) economic sectors (automotive, energy, minerals, life sciences, agriculture), (2) foundations (ecosystem, founders, talent, venture capital/investment), and (3) semiconductor supply chain (chip design, chip manufacturing, OEM products). The final report is a detailed roadmap for developing Canada into a major semiconductor manufacturer by 2050.
About Canada’s Semiconductor Council
Launched in May 2021, Canada’s Semiconductor Council is an industry-led coalition that formed to strengthen Canada’s semiconductor sector and supply chain resiliency in the face of the global chip shortage. Led by a select group of globally recognized Canadian founders, business leaders, chip manufacturers, and investors, the council has a mandate to create and lead a National Semiconductor Strategy and Action Plan. To learn more, visit www.canadassemiconductorcouncil.com.