July 11, 2023

Does Canada Have A Role To Play In The Chip Wars?

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.