Does Canada Have A Role To Play In The Chip Wars?
Free Lunch by The Peak
Tue, July 11, 2023
Podchat Summary

The Importance of the Semiconductor Industry and Canada's Role

In this episode, the hosts delve into the critical role of the semiconductor industry and Canada's position within it. They are joined by Benjamin Bergen, the president of the Council of Canadian Innovators, who sheds light on the significance of semiconductors in driving technology and supporting our digital economy. Bergen emphasizes the geopolitical shift and the necessity for countries to have access to semiconductors.

The conversation revolves around the establishment of Silicon, an organization advocating for the Canadian semiconductor industry. The hosts and guest explore Canada's historical involvement in this industry, including the decline of companies like Nortel, and stress the need for government coordination and support. Bergen underscores the importance of government investment in domestic companies to foster the generation, retention, and commercialization of intellectual property. He argues that Canada should not rely on other countries for its semiconductor supply, but rather focus on building its own capacity.

The discussion further delves into the various areas within the semiconductor industry where Canada could make a significant impact, such as design and packaging. Bergen suggests that Canada should leverage its strengths and provide support to domestic companies in these specific areas. He also calls for a more coordinated approach from the government, bringing together different departments and stakeholders to develop a comprehensive strategy for the semiconductor industry.

The hosts and guest also address the risks and challenges associated with investing in the semiconductor industry, while highlighting the potential benefits for Canada's economy and national security. They touch upon the importance of industrial policies and stress the need for government support in emerging industries.

Overall, this episode underscores the criticality of the semiconductor industry and advocates for a strategic approach from Canada to support domestic companies and bolster its own capacity in this field.

Original Show Notes
Fun fact: Canada used to be something of a semiconductor manufacturing power. Ottawa was a centre of innovation in the space, with local telecom companies like Nortel Networks at one point employing nearly 100,000 people around the world. Things have changed since then, of course. Nortel and Ottawa's other telecom giants are gone (or shadows of their former selves), either bought out or put under by foreign competition. And Canada is no longer a big semiconductor player. Meanwhile, the importance of semiconductors (or chips) in the global economy has grown dramatically, with virtually all electronics depending on them to one degree or another. And for many years, Canada (and much of the rest of the world) has been happy to rely on semiconductors made abroad in manufacturing hubs like Taiwan. But that has begun to change, as tensions with China have raised the spectre of suddenly losing access to a strategically vital piece of hardware. That's ignited a "chip war" over who will make the most advanced semiconductors, and control the technology needed to do it. Set against this backdrop, does Canada have a role to play in semiconductors? Benjamin Bergen thinks so. He is the president of the Council of Canadian Innovators, one of the groups that recently came together to launch SILICAN, an organization focused on advocating for Canada's semiconductor industry. He joins us on this episode to make the case for turning Canada into a semiconductor power once again. ----- Links: More episodes of Free Lunch by The Peak: Follow Taylor on Twitter: @taylorscollon Follow Sarah on Twitter: @sarahbartnicka Subscribe to The Peak's daily business newsletter:
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