Download the Executive Summary

Sector Leadership Council Report available to all CPEIA Members

By Peter Kallai

We met, we talked and we listened to what our Members had to say. Now’s it’s time for action.

On Nov. 22, the CPEIA convened at the Toronto headquarters of Xerox Research Centre of Canada the inaugural Sector Development Leadership Council.

This high-level meeting drew 35 senior decision makers from across the CPEIA’s diverse membership – entrepreneurs, corporate executives, academics and representatives of provincial and federal programs that support R&D and commercialization activities. This group served as a representative cross-section of the CPEIA’s 80 member organizations.

The challenges facing an emerging technology sector

The Council identified four key challenges for the growth and development of Canada’s emerging printable, flexible and wearable electronics (PE) sector. These impact startups, young SMEs, established mid-sized companies and multinationals with Canadian operations in various ways:

  • The Market Challenge: Defining applications and products with large and profitable markets in partnership with world-class end users. Critical in this is accessing such end users globally and getting them to work with Canadian companies.
  • The New Product Development Challenge: Prototype development towards commercialization with lead end users/customers for trials and early adoption. Critical in this is conducting trials of new technologies in sufficient scale to prove the business case for profitable commercial adoption.
  • The Manufacturing Challenge: Resources for SMEs to invest in their own facilities before the market and business case has been proven for manufacturing scale up. Critical in this is creating and accessing sufficient scale-up manufacturing resources, including equipment, skilled people and production lines.
  • The Financing Challenge for Scale Up: Access to capital for startups and SMEs at various stages of growth. Critical in this is lack of access to traditional VC funding for materials, electronics or new emerging cross-sector ventures.

We agreed that the status quo does not provide the sector-specific support framework that an emerging technology area such as ours needs to thrive and compete in a global economy.

Based on the analysis of our membership, our sector is dominated by startups and young SMEs heavily investing in R&D that have yet to make significant inroads into markets outside Canada. Council participants agreed that current fragmented government support programs and local community-based economic development agencies are not enough. These do not provide the comprehensive, industry-driven approach that’s required to build a healthy ecosystem, scale startups and SMEs, and strengthen the larger Canadian players and active multinationals working in Canada.

Instead, we need an industry-specific network dedicated to building the entire ecosystem for these emerging technologies from coast to coast. One that creates linkages across the supply chain and begins with end users and customers, followed by the other essentials required to de-risk a product for volume manufacturing.

As a member-funded not-for-profit, the CPEIA cannot do this alone. We need the right strategic support from government, to generate economic wealth and high-value employment for Canada.

How would we use government funding? Our strategic plan

Government funding would be used to:

  1. Develop sector plans and assemble leadership councils for major PE technology areas in:
    • intelliWEAR – wearables/health
    • intelliBUILD – connected homes and intelligent buildings and
    • intelliPARTS – smart parts for transport (automotive and aerospace) that directly benefit key Canadian manufacturing sectors.
    • intelliPACK – This would be in addition to the current intelliPACK program for intelligent packaging.We would link university and college R&D to these sector plans.
  1. Market our sector to dozens of additional global end users like Unilever to help drive development of revenue-generating products.
  2. Promote our sector and our industry events to attract a global audience to Canada so our companies can engage with the global supply chain.
  3. Open new verticals such automotive and health care beyond smart packaging where we have globally competitive Canadian players.
  4. Fund and carry out product development activities, pilots, trials and demonstration projects that lever resources from across the CPEIA Membership, to target and educate end users in key market verticals.
  5. Link and develop critical manufacturing capabilities that currently do not exist in Canada such as smart textiles and 3D printable electronics.

Time to act

Emerging sectors mature over 15 to 20 years. With the right government funding formula, a sector organization like the CPEIA could provide the support SMEs need, help startups and SMEs scale faster, and cut this growth curve by at least five years. This will create robust growth and economic benefit for Canada much faster than if industry firms are left to struggle along on their own in a fragmented market.

In the weeks and months ahead, the CPEIA Board of Directors will be working on your behalf to capture the ear of key government decision makers and ensure our sector is part of Canada’s Innovation Agenda.

The full report is now available

The full report from the Sector Leadership Council is now available at no cost to CPEIA Members. Please contact me for a copy at peter.kallai@cpeia-acei.ca. We welcome your comments.