Now is the time to embrace Canada for an integrated North American semiconductor supply chain

Richard L. Thurston, Op-Ed contributed to DIGITIMES Asia, Taipei 0

Credit: Canadian Semiconductor Council

The aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic has sparked many economies to address the disruptions caused throughout the global semiconductor supply chain. Whether the result of so-called "security nationalism," unsettled competitive trading regimes, or warfare destabilization, we are experiencing a new competitive era in semiconductor manufacturing. Canada has become a major participant in those ongoing reshoring recalibrations (Canada's semiconductor industry can be traced back to Nortel in the late-1960's).

On February 6, 2024, Canada's Semiconductor Council, ably led by Paul Slaby, convened a pathbreaking Inaugural Semiconductor Summit in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. Nearly 150 participants joined with 5 panels to discuss how to accelerate the growth and development of Canada's semiconductor sector. Keynote speaker John East added tremendous color to the collective deliberations.

A key theme of the Summit focused on new collaborative efforts amongst government, academia, and businesses to build the global profile of Canada's established semiconductor ecosystem. I was most fortunate to have been invited to attend the Summit and participate on the panel that tackled "Building A Competitive Semiconductor Ecosystem: Harnessing an Economic Juggernaut." Messr. Normand Bourbonnais, President Directeur General of Technum Quebec, moderated the distinguished panel.

The Council will identify and recommend the best semiconductor strategies for the country in the coming months. Canada has many semiconductor-related strengths, including advanced packaging, photonics, power semiconductor devices, data communications, materials, academic research, IC design, etc. There are also some research & developing/prototyping centers, such as the one belonging to C2MI in Bromont, Canada. Canadian companies seek to build over time partnerships with other fabs, including those located in the US Northeast Tech Hub, Albany/Malta, and the Mud-Hudson Valley.

How Taiwan can be part of it

Taiwan is not new to the Canadian Semiconductor ecosystem. I had been very fortunate to be part of the TSMC executive team, led by CEO Rick Tsai, Hsu Fu-chieh, and Wei Che-chia, that established in 2007 a pioneering design center in Kanata (outside Ottawa), Ontario, Canada (known as TSMC Design Technology Canada). Working with the TSMC team in San Jose, the Ottawa team helped to kick off the novel Open Innovation Platform ("OIP"). Even in 2007, TSMC was not known to Canada's semiconductor talents. Whether it was ATI, a Canadian company and key TSMC customer (now part of AMD), or Semiconductor Insights (today, TechInsights), Chipworks, and others assisted TSMC and my legal team in semiconductor market intelligence, chip analysis, and infringement analysis. They played major roles in our litigation against SMIC. Today's TSMC Ottawa team, approximately 100 employees and a Gold Sponsor of the Summit, is led by Cormac O'Connell.

Huge potential awaits Taiwan companies to partner and collaborate with Canada's best semiconductor resources. However, if they do not, they will miss an important window of opportunity.

Canada is recalibrating its semiconductor industry and is in active discussions with the Governments of the US and Mexico to establish a new trade pact focusing on an integrated North American semiconductor supply chain. Canada's Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, Francois-Philippe Champagne, is leading the charge to materialize the North American Semiconductor Corridor and is investing heavily in this initiative. Well-experienced in international trade and foreign affairs, the dynamic Minister Champagne is known for advocating and leading Canada's semiconductor ecosystem to "Seize the Moment."

Please keep in mind that Canada is also deeply involved in the new Northeast Microelectronics Hub of the United States. I have been very fortunate to be involved and work closely with Canadian officials such as Tom Clark, Consul General of Canada in New York, David Bryce in the Consulate responsible for semiconductor initiatives, and Paul Brogan of Invest In Canada. Through the Hudson Valley Fast Fab, based in East Fishkill, NY, and of which I am CEO, my partners and I are working on bilateral New York-Canada initiatives as part of the Northeast Microelectronics Hub under the Chips Act. There is also a significant opportunity here for Taiwanese businesses.

It is evident from participating in this Inaugural Semiconductor Summit that the "Moment" is NOW. Taiwan companies such as TSMC and MediaTek should do more to establish a larger technology presence in Canada and the Northeast Microelectronics Hub and become key participants in an Integrated North American Supply Chain.

Editor's note: Dr. Richard L. Thurston is the Founder and Principal Member of RLT Global Consulting and CEO of Hudson Valley Fast Fab ("HVFF"). He retired from TSMC as Senior Vice President and General Counsel in 2014, served as a consultant for TSMC, and worked for Texas Instruments (TI) to negotiate joint venture and trade agreements with Japan in the 1980s and 1990s.

Disclaimer: The views expressed within the Op-Ed article are solely the author's and do not reflect the opinions and position of DIGITIMES Asia and its affiliates.

Thurston is second from the right. Credit: Richard Thurston

Thurston is second from the right. Credit: Richard Thurston