CMC gears up to provide commercialization services to research community and industry
DMT fits well with other investments Canada has made in the microelectronics space in recent years. Universities across the country have recently secured funding for specialized fabrication and design equipment that forms the basis of CMC's Embedded Systems Canada initiative and its national Design Network. Add to that provincial support and a $200 million plus investment in the MiQro Innovation Collaborative Centre (C2MI) — an international centre of excellence for electronic assembly research affiliated with the Univ of Sherbrooke — and the total invested in microelectronics and nano expertise tops $500 million.
CMC is positioned to take leading-edge technologies and provide funding for scale-up and the development of design tools and design systems. Such value-add makes its role more attractive to companies seeking to utilize C2MI or start-ups seeking to establish a niche in the global microelectronics value chain.
"Some of the things we can do using a university micro lab or the kinds of access we have is to go half way to scale-up … If you take that next step and you design it in a way that is scalable and you have that built into design tools and design systems, that's where CMC can help," says McWalter. "We don't have all the answers and not everything will turn out. But I do know that if we don't invest significant resources in moving this forward, we'll miss the boat … CMC can seed and leverage an awful lot of things. That's the basic vision of it."
CMC has received board approval to develop DMT and secure initial clients. McWalter has been casting throughout the research and business communities to promote its services and find suitable projects that validate and demonstrate the value of DMT's services. He points to McMaster Univ's new Canadian Centre for Electron Microscopy as the kind of facilities industry could utilize.
"Their lab is the best in the world and they are claiming results that no one else can achieve. They can do noise reduction techniques and look at things at the sub-angstrom (one ten billionth) level," he says. "This is part of what CMC can do as well. We've got some great facilities ... We're moving closer to the leading edge in terms of what we can provide for people. If you're a company that wants to piggyback, it's there."
One roadblock to realizing the benefits stemming from embedded expertise and facilities lies in a relative lack of coordination, alignment and outreach: tasks that would benefit from a strategic policy approach that government — particularly Industry Canada — is best positioned to provide. "They're receptive to ideas that they — the government and the bureaucracy combined — need to find a role that they genuinely believe will be useful … I think the Jenkins report will stir things up a bit," says McWalter. "There are those who say … let the private sector take care of it. We'd be the only country in the world who did that. The fact of the matter is, whatever your ideology, most countries give a lot of money directly to companies."
While Industry Canada decides on the best approach for stimulating value-added areas for industry, CMC will pursue its area of expertise through DMT, facilitating access to know-how, equipment and supply chains by selling services or even seeding promising technologies to add value.
"We're in nine provinces and we're saying we'll take the management burden. If there's a little gap, we'll fund the costs and try to take the risk away," he says. "We have to encourage manufacturing — typically high value-added manufacturing in health care, microelectronics, energy and automotive, and we have to reduce risk and get into new technologies so that many more Canadian companies will do it."