A group of Canadian founders, business leaders, chip manufacturers, and investors has launched Canada’s Semiconductor Council with the mandate to build and lead the country’s national semiconductor strategy and action plan.

The coalition said it “will work towards advancing Canadian competitiveness, strengthening trade partnerships, bolstering supply chain resilience, and propelling Canada to the forefront of the US$7 trillion global semiconductor industry.

“Semiconductors underpin all emerging technologies, including electric vehicles, vaccine production, medical devices, consumer electronics, and the robotics used in precision agriculture,” it said.

“As the global chip shortage continues to threaten major industries in Canada and around the world, there’s an urgent need for Canada to establish itself as a developer and manufacturer of semiconductor products – both for domestic use and global export.”

A rejuvenated semiconductor sector, it added, will also help Canada to build small business capacity, drive economic recovery, reach our decarbonization goals, and strengthen technological security.  

Founding members of the council are Salim Teja, a partner with early-stage venture capital firm Radical Ventures, Pamela Pelletier, country manager of Dell Technologies, Kevin O’Neil, managing director of AMD Canada, Sarah Prevette, CEO of the Future Design School and Melissa Chee, president and CEO of the tech hub ventureLab.

“One of the biggest hurdles facing Canada’s domestic hardware and semiconductor companies is the lack of access to venture capital,” said Teja. “As a result, many technology founders are forced to seek foreign capital, often resulting in early exits at low values to foreign ownership.

“This unfortunate outcome is a waste of the years-long investment we put into our technology students, as well as a major blow to our economy. The launch of Canada’s Semiconductor Council is a significant step towards closing the gap to capital for Canadian technology companies, and a necessary measure to attract the billions of dollars in global investment that come with a thriving semiconductor sector.”

Canadian graduates, the release stated, are among the best STEM talent in the world, and are highly sought after by global semiconductor companies offering well-paying, high-skilled jobs.

According to data from Statistics Canada, nearly a quarter of all post-secondary enrolment was in computer and electronics-related programs in 2019. 

“Canada produces some of the world’s most talented and sought-after STEM graduates, but without offering transformative and well-paying careers to keep them in Canada, we risk losing our best and brightest to other countries,” said Prevette.

“Planting the seeds for a powerful domestic semiconductor industry isn’t just good for our economy — it’s one of the most effective tools we have to keep our talent in Canada, bring our talent back to Canada, and attract top talent from around the world.”