That’s a Wrap for HardTech 2022

Yara Jouzy
November 10, 2022
York Region

ventureLAB’s annual HardTech, Canada’s premier hardware technology-focused conference, has officially come to a close. Last year, we held our first HardTech event virtually, building on our growing recognition as Canada's Hardware Hub and a thought leader for Canada's hardware and semiconductor industry. This year, we are delighted to welcome people back to our space for our first in-person HardTech conference featuring thought-provoking dialogues centered around opportunities for Canada’s semiconductor sector, a Pitch Competition for $50,000 in cash prizes, meeting exchanges and countless networking opportunities. 

Here are some of our favourite highlights from HardTech 2022!

This year's HardTech included a jam-packed agenda that featured prominent thought leaders who are putting Canada on the map for hardware and semiconductor innovation.The panelist discussions included a deep dive into the global supply chain disruptions and worldwide chip shortages, automobility, medical technologies, optimizing talent in tech and more. 

We opened the day with a robust discussion featuring industry experts Niraj Mathur, CEO of Blumind, Gem Shoute, CEO of Zinite, and Phil Vokins, Director Channels, Alliances & Cloud at Intel, moderated by Erin Bury, CEO of Willful. Panelists discussed the state of the global semiconductor industry, where Canada fits into the picture and opportunities for our nation to come that will pave the way for economic growth and resiliency for years to come.

“We are seeing a world which is changing extremely fast. Events like COVID or events like the tragic war in eastern europe will continue to have an effect on our supply chain. I don’t think anybody can predict the next steps and it’s quite scary,” said Volkins. “But there is an ever more demand for pervasive compute from edge to cloud. That is not going to go. That demand is set to grow.”

“I think this crisis over the last couple of years has shed light on an interesting fact in our industry. 60 per cent of all chips and 90 per cent of advanced chips the world consumes are made on a tiny island in Taiwan in Asia,” added Mathur. “That is a huge weakness and problem with the global supply chainThings like that have come to the forefront and now countries are responding to the shortage.” 

Attendees also saw a glimpse of the foundational role technology plays in the healthcare sector, with David van Slingerland, CEO of Sterling Industries, Neil Fraser, President of Medtronic Canada and Brent Roberts, VP of Life Sciences Strategy at Siemens Digital Industries, which was moderated by Colin Hung, Editor of Healthcare IT Today. The discussion stressed the importance of semiconductors in creating transformative technologies, life-saving medical devices, and additional healthcare products and solutions. 

“In Canada, the creativity of the medical profession is excellent and the opportunity to work with the healthcare sector, if you have the ability to exploit the ideas and create products and business is just excellent,” added Fraser when asked about the country’s medtech sector. 

HardTech attendees also had the opportunity to hear from different perspectives of the automotive industry and the critical role that innovators play in manufacturing and supplying cars on a global scale. It’s no secret that Canada’s automotive sector has been heavily impacted by the global chip shortage and audience members got to hear the panelists first-hand experiences, insights and challenges over the last few years. Automotive industry experts on the panel included Matthew Burns, Global Director, Technical Marketing at Samtech, Warren Ali, SVP Innovation at APMA, Peter Suma, Co-CEO at Applied Brain research and Kirk Ouelette, VP Global Marketing at ST Micro which with was moderated by Alina Balakrishnan, reporter at The Logic. 

“The shortage is forcing companies like Samtech, and our partners and competitors to think holistically and rethink the design model. I don’t know any industry, not only in addition to automotive, that wasn’t affected in one form or function by some of the shortages we’ve seen in the last 12-18 months,” added Burns. “We’ve had to re-engineer and come up with unique solutions to get past that so that we can continue to service our customers. One microcause from one small piece of business affected the automotive industry as a whole.”

The closing panel honed in on a topic of significant importance: talent. Now more than ever, it’s important to leverage and optimize global talent to build on the ecosystem’s expertise. On this panel were Shelley Kiupers, Co-Founder of The 51, Chris Smith, VP, Platform Software at AMD and Gordon Chiu, Senior Director of Software Engineering at Intel, Nizar Rida, VP of engineering at Marvell and moderated by Erin Bury. These leaders addressed the current obstacles the semiconductor industry faces when growing and retaining talent and the opportunities that can arise for companies to scale in Canada and globally when attracting talent.

“I think what’s most important is that you create a culture that’s highly productive and that everyone on the team is motivated to contribute to the company. I think every company has to design what that unique culture is and stick with it and lead with that culture,” concluded Kiupers when asked about how to retain talent in the industry. 

The HardTech Pitch Competition saw eight Canadian hardware companies pitch for a chance to win one of two cash prizes totalling $50,000: Argentum Electronics, Daanaa, Ekidna, Mazlite, One Silicon Chip Photonics, Qoherent, VCycene and VoxCell BioInnovation. Congratulations to the pitch competition winners:

  1. First place, taking home $35,000: Argentum Electronics, a company dedicated to making upgrading electrical distribution systems in buildings to Direct Current, pain-free and cost effective.They use plug-and-play, patented Digital Current™ power distribution system to supply buildings with direct current (DC) electricity.
  2. Second place, receiving $15,000: Daanaa, a semiconductor technology company that provides power transactions freely, safely, and efficiently. For Daanaa, power, together with data, travels medium and modality free. 

Stay tuned to find out more about our Pitch Competition finalists and winners as we share details about them tomorrow! 

This year’s HardTech Conference could not have been possible without the support of our sponsors, speakers, panelists, media, and guests. We look forward to welcoming you back to HardTech next year as we continue to shed light on the importance of hardware technology and the impact it has on a global scale. 

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