Canada invests in chip and photonics future

Modest cash infusion to boost Great White North's computing industry

The Canadian government is investing CA$240m ($187m) to boost the country's semiconductor and photonics segments in hopes of bolstering its role in the global market.

The recently announced investments consist of a new CA$150m ($117m) fund called the Semiconductor Challenge Callout, which will lob loonies to proposals focused on research, commercialization and manufacturing, and CA$90m ($70m) in new funding for the Canadian Photonics Fabrication Centre.

For the latter, the Canadian government makes clear it will focus on "ambitious, transformative proposals" that will boost the country's role in North America's IT and communications supply chains.

One area of interest is advanced chip packaging, including 2.5D and 3D integration, which semiconductor companies like Intel and AMD are beginning to adopt for upcoming products.

The Canadian government is also keen on proposals around sensors and microelectromechanical systems, also known as MEMS. These can be used, for instance, as gyro sensors within a video game controller or inertial sensors in vehicles.

The program is also looking for ideas on compound semiconductors, which combine two or more elements to provider power, performance and durability advantages over traditional silicon.

The other CA$90M will be used to make critical equipment upgrades to the Canadian Photonics Fabrication Centre, a 40,000-square-foot facility that is "the only compound semiconductor foundry in North America that is publicly operated and open to all for use," according to the Canadian government.

Under the purview of the government's National Research Council of Canada, it provides engineering and manufacturing services to academia as well as photonics businesses, which is expected to further boost the country's reputation as a "world leader in photonics."

The CA$150M for the Semiconductor Challenge Callout fund is but a small fraction of the $52bn in US funding for the semiconductor industry that is awaiting final approval from Congress.

But the Canadian government said the amount represents the country's "initial commitment" for its semiconductor sector, which includes more than 100 national and international companies researching and developing microchips, over 30 applied research labs and five commercial facilities.  

"By investing in Canada's semiconductor industry, we are making a firm commitment to businesses looking to invest in Canada. Whether it's high-value or large-scale manufacturing, we want to see Canada be home to the world's leading semiconductor manufacturers," said François-Philippe Champagne, Canada's Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry. ®

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