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What’s ahead for Canada’s electronics technology sector?

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Imagine an electric vehicle that recharges its battery by absorbing sunlight through its body panels. A wireless sensor that transmits data using 5,000 times less energy than conventional Wi-Fi radios. Or an injectable electronic mesh that fits to the retina so someone with glaucoma can see clearly again.

Disruptive innovations like these are just some of what could be made possible through the next-generation electronics technologies being developed by the Canadian start-up companies we aim to support with BDC’s $200-million Deep Tech Venture Fund.

By investing in and supporting promising Canadian electronics companies, BDC aims to accelerate the commercialization of breakthrough innovations—and help Canada reach its full potential in this field.

Electronics technologies have the potential to improve virtually every industry: from gaming and telecommunications to biomedicine and automotive engineering.

What is the electronics sector?

“Electronics” is a broad label that encompasses any component or piece of equipment that deals with the emission, flow or control of electrons. The electronics sector refers to all businesses working to produce, commercialize and service these goods.

In Canada, we see a lot of potential in electronics for communications, processing and computing, and embedded applications. These developments will make computer memory, logic and communications functions faster and more efficient across a vast range of consumer, commercial and industrial uses.

Here is an overview of the major technologies currently being developed and their commercial applications in the electronics sectors.

1. Communications

Spintronics is an emerging field focused on manipulating how electrons spin. Altering spin makes it possible to create materials and devices that store more data and send that data faster while consuming less power. The work being done in this area tends to concentrate on spintronic nano-oscillators and spintronic materials.

  • Spintronic nano-oscillators are nano-components that use two spintronic phenomena—spin transfer and the magneto-resistive effect—to modulate the frequency of signals in the gigahertz range and manage how those signals are mixed and detected.

    Applications

    • Faster data transmission and decreased power consumption for wireless communications
    • High-density data storage
    • Improved radar capabilities for self-driving vehicles
  • Spintronic materials are used to create giant magneto-resistance devices and polymer waveguides (flexible, self-supporting film) that improve data storage and transmission.

    Applications

    • Magneto-resistive random-access memory (MRAM) with reduced power consumption and faster data-transfer rates
    • Polymer waveguides embedded in motherboards enabling high-speed data transfers for short-distance communications (e.g., in vehicle data bus systems)

2. Processing and computing

Micro- and nano-electronics will change the world of computing. In addition to making internet of things (IoT) sensors extremely energy efficient, future electronic design and components will include nanoscale security to better protect the data transmitted by IoT devices; neuromorphic chips that make better use of artificial intelligence and machine learning for adaptive, self-modifying computations; and countless other innovations.

  • Cloudlets are small-scale data centres located in the cloud. They can support resource-intensive mobile applications, improving response times and reducing latency by providing powerful computing resources closer to end users.

    Applications

    • Faster, more responsive augmented reality and cloud gaming
    • Improved data privacy by giving users more control over how information is accessed
    • Uninterrupted digital services—unlike typical cloud data centres, if a single cloudlet fails, users are simply redirected to the next nearby cloudlet
  • AI-specialized chips are customized specifically for computing, often using traditional silicon fabrication but with optimized circuit designs.

    Applications

    • Development and advancement of self-driving vehicles
    • Edge computing for smartphone users
  • Quantum dots and nanowires are very small components that can be incorporated into other semiconductor fabrication technologies, such as silicon.

    Applications

    • Biomedical sensing based on conductivity of nanowires between receptors and charged molecules
    • Electro-optic transceivers providing fast multiplexed on-chip and cross-data-centre communications

3. Embedding

In the future, electronics will be embedded into every surface and substance imaginable: textiles, glass, paper… even our own skin. Injectable electronics and epidermal electronic adhesives will unlock new opportunities for monitoring health conditions in a non-invasive way. Clothes will become increasingly interactive; cars will charge themselves and much more.

  • Conductive, semi-conductive and dielectric inks and pastes make it possible to print circuits on a variety of surfaces, including plastic, paper, glass and textiles.

    Applications

    • Wireless and stretchable biomedical sensors, implants and wearables, as well as smart skin patches and biodegradable circuits
    • Thin film photovoltaics built into cars to power smart electronics or charge electric batteries up much faster than traditional charging
    • Smart clothing with embedded LEDs that automatically turn on in the dark, or embedded radio transmitters that automatically send coordinates to rescue teams during emergencies, improving occupational health and safety
  • Ultra-flexible mesh electronics are designed with tissue-like structural and mechanical properties, allowing them to be injected non-invasively into and interact with human tissue at the cellular level—opening exciting new possibilities in healthcare.

    Applications

    • Multiple healthcare monitoring applications, including measuring chronic immunoreactivity in the brain and in-vivo multiplexed neural recording

Impacts for multiple industries

A single type of next-gen electronics technology, such as conductive inks or AI-specialized chips, could deliver significant benefits to several sectors of Canada’s economy. Across the full range of electronics technologies we aim to support through our Deep Tech Venture Fund, the application areas are truly vast.

Aerospace AI-specialized chips Cloud gaming and augmented reality Cloudlets EnergyQuantum dots and nanowires
Automotive Spintronic nano-oscillators AI-specialized chips Conductive inks and pastes ComputingSpintronic materials AI-specialized chips Telecommunications and IoT Spintronic materials Conductive inks and pastes
Bio-medical and healthcare Quantum dots and nanowires Conductive inks and pastes Ultra-flexible mesh electronics Consumer electronics AI-specialized chips Conductive inks and pastes TextilesConductive inks and pastes

Growing Canada’s deep tech ecosystem

Canada is home to a fast-growing electronics sector, propelled by the universities and government institutes leading the way in fundamental research as well as the start-ups and technology incubators going the next step of commercialization. The BDC Deep Tech Venture Fund was designed to nurture that growth, identify strong investment opportunities and actively contribute to a better digital future.

Electronics is just one of the deep tech sectors we’ve prioritized for investment alongside quantum technologies, photonics and foundational AI (artificial intelligence). We believe that helping promising companies become international champions in these fields is essential to Canada’s competitiveness and prosperity.

Contact us if you’d like to partner with us to build a stronger deep tech ecosystem.

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