The Canadian microelectronics industry is getting a shot in the arm with a new national research consortium.

Kingston, Ont.-based Queen’s University Tuesday will announce it is leading the a consortium whose members will include other universities across the country, private sector companies and not-for-profit organization the Canadian Microelectronics Corporation (CMC).

Forty per cent of the funding will come from the Canadian Foundation for Innovation (CFI) based in Ottawa, the remainder from interested corporations, and provincial and federal matching funds.

“This is a consortium of universities that we’re funding . . . lead by Queen’s University. They are looking at what they call a system-on-chip (SOC),” explained CFI president and CEO Dr David Strangway. “In effect what this is a very significant foundry – when universities wish to develop prototypes they can send them in and have them made. Students can do them, graduate students, faculty members and so on.”

CFI’s contribution to the consortium totals $15.9 million, according to Strangway. The organization, since its inception in 1997, has funded a total of 1,418 projects including genomics, bio-technology and new media centres in McMaster and McGill universities.

“We require each institution that applies to us to have a research plan. Since these are pretty large projects, we think it’s very important that the universities . . . have a sense of where they’re going,” said Strangway.

Microelectronics has become an active research area within university departments, he added. “This group of universities has made the decision from the perspective of their electrical engineering departments and computer science departments that this is a . . . very hot topic for them.”

The CNC refused to comment on its involvement in the consortium prior to Tuesday’s official announcement.

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