Canadian government announces $240 million investment in semiconductor and photonics industries


Canada’s semiconductor industry received a boost this week as the Honourable François‑Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, announced the Semiconductor Challenge Callout, which provides C$150 million through the Strategic Innovation Fund to build Canada’s strengths in the design and manufacture of semiconductors.

The Semiconductor Challenge Callout looks for ambitious, large-scale ideas from industry and other ecosystem players that address how Canada can build on existing R&D and manufacturing strength, contribute to a national network and supply chain and position Canada as a critical global supplier of specialized semiconductors manufacturing. It focuses on products such as sensor and microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) used in everything from video game controllers to automobiles and telecommunications, compound semiconductors that provide power, speed and durability advantages over traditional silicon mass-market components, and advanced packaging to place multiple semiconductor devices in a single unit to improved connectivity and reduce power consumption.

“I know that people at home may question and say, ‘What is $150 million in the great scheme of the production of semiconductors?’,” Champagne said. “But let me remind Canadians that we have a niche capability when it comes to manufacturing. And we have a total ecosystem in Canada of innovators, of entrepreneurs. So this is about consolidating, expanding, scaling what we do best here in Canada.”

Champagne also announced a further C$90 million investment in the National Research Council of Canada’s Canadian Photonics Fabrication Centre (CPFC), which will finance equipment upgrades to increase the centre’s capacity and ability to address the ever-increasing complexity of the technology being brought to market by its clients. The CPFC is the only compound semiconductor foundry in North America that is publicly operated and open to all for use. It delivers photonics device fabrication services to the research and private sectors, helping to grow many Canadian small and medium-sized enterprises in such industries as telecommunications, environmental sensing, automotive, defence and aerospace.

“This $90 million is very much needed; we saw some pieces of equipment that are going to be coming to keep making sure we were state of the art,” Champagne observed. “Because over the last two decades, this center has established itself as a world-class one-stop-shop. People come here, they do research, they do production, proof of concept. And this makes us unique around the world. This investment will help position Canada as a critical global supplier of niche semiconductor technologies. And that’s where I think we can make a difference as Canada.”

The centre is a public asset that allows companies to work on projects, receive support bringing the product to market, and sometimes also receive support once in the market, noted Iain Stewart, president, National Research Council of Canada (NRC), in thanking the government for the funding. “CPFC is a hub, as the minister explained,” he said. “We do advanced research, we do pilot scale manufacturing. We are the only pure-play compound semiconductor fabrication center in North America. It’s special. And it has a long tail that goes all the way back to Nortel. And in fact, some of the stuff we’re blessed to have and some of our colleagues we’re blessed to work with go all the way back to Nortel. We are a unique supplier.”

Hamid Arabzadeh, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Canadian photonics firm Ranovus, which has had a long-time partnership with the NRC, added his thanks and that of the Canadian innovators in the semiconductor and the compound semiconductor industry.

“Today’s announcement sends a clear message to that talent that the Government of Canada understands the importance of intellectual property and global leadership in strategic industries,” he said. “My hope is that the Canadian talent will create new Canadian-owned companies and get Canada back to the podium. To that effect, we’re announcing a $45 million investment in the next generation of optical communication technologies to address the emerging AI and machine learning workloads. We recognize that an ecosystem is more than one company and look forward to continuing our work with other Canadian companies to strengthen the critical mass of intellectual property in Canada.”


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