CMC Microsystems cautiously optimistic as CFI awards $7 million for O&M of its National Design Network

Mark Henderson
January 17, 2017

CMC Microsystems has been awarded $7 million over three years from the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) for operations and maintenance (O&M) of its National Design Network. But the money comes with some big strings attached. The Kingston ON-based agency needs to secure matching funds and money in the next federal Budget. The award, made through CFI’s Major Science Initiatives (MSI) program, covers only 40% of what’s required to maintain and expand the various platforms of the NDN.

More importantly, CMC is also seeking funds to replace its longstanding support from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council. That funding winds down over the next three years.

In a pre-Budget submission last year, CMC requested $80 million over five years, preferably in A-based funding to ensure ongoing and sustainable support for professors and graduates students that rely on the network.

“I view the award as helpful but we still have to get the other 60%,” says CMC president Dr Ian McWalter. “It’s the first time we’ve been recognized as a national institution that provides value across the country and stands us in good stead, but we’re still waiting for the Budget.”

The CMC-MSI award is intended to help CMC establish and manage a nation-wide cloud-based and industrially relevant design environment, develop a new operational model facilitating more effective use of CMC’s network of university labs for testing and fabricating new technologies, and building new partnerships and industrial collaborations.

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McWalter says CMC’s request for five-year funding from the CFI is being provided in two-stages, with the final two-year tranche dependant on securing new funding that extends beyond the three-year NSERC phase-out.

“It’s contingent upon the keystone funding. MSI is not mean to start new initiatives,” he says.

Similar challenges face the CMC-managed Advanced Design Leading to Manufacturing in Micro-Nano Technologies (ADEPT) initiative, which has received CFI support but requires new base funding to move forward.

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“Basic funding from ISED (Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada) would activate much more value. It would have a two- or three-to-one multiplier effect,” says McWalter. “People in government understand what we’re saying and are helping to refine our message … Our activities have fundamental impacts that we often don’t see.”

McWalter says if CMC is successful in the Budget, it will gear up its operations and contribute to Canada’s ability to compete in advanced manufacturing and other high-tech industries. Failure would likely mean an orderly shutdown of the organization including the termination of collaborative relationships with 60 academic institutions.

“This is the reality we’re facing,” he says. “We’ll keep making the case but there is risk. Governments have lots of calls on their time and money so we can’t be complacent.”


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