With Intel busy expanding its manufacturing and supply chain worldwide, we had a chance to sit down with Greg Ernst, corporate vice-president of sales and marketing of Intel America, and Denis Gaudreault, Intel Canada country manager, to ask a few questions about the company’s strategy in Canada.
Q: How does the business strategy in Canada differ from other countries?
Greg: “My organization’s job is to make it easier to extract value from the computer–that could be gamers, businesses, or schools. The key parts of our strategy to do that are one, to partner with the government on building out the labour force that can do it because there’s a global shortage of IT experts. The second is our partner strategy…we really focus on making our products easier for them to manage, deploy and service. That’s a big part. But whether it’s local companies or global, we believe there’s the right partner network here in Canada. Now our job is just to continue to seek their input to make what we build easier for them to deploy.”
Denis: “When we look at the commercial side of our strategy in Canada, we’re looking to engage with the end customer, to help them digitally transform, specifically for their needs in Canada: how they want to secure the data, data sovereignty, all those things. Second, our goal is enabling our partners that are making that happen, so helping them to help their customers. So those are the two angles that we’re working deeply with the teams to engage with the customer from a commercial point of view, because there’s all the engineering side that’s also part of the strategy.”
Q: Intel has a team of more than 800 engineers in Canada, how is Intel Canada helping to secure a semiconductor supply chain in Canada?
Greg: “We look at the lifecycle of the product. Today, those 800 engineers play a critical role in defining and engineering the product that will then get manufactured at scale and deployed all over the world. The employees in Canada are at the front end of that lifecycle, which is in development.
“And then it’s Denis’ role to work with the ecosystem, understanding the demand for compute and then working it through with our global supply chain. Denis interfaces with that to really ensure that compute, wherever it’s manufactured, is getting here to Canada. We call this globally diverse supply chain strategy our IDM 2.0, and you’ve seen some of the announcements that we’ve made to expand production facilities all over Arizona, Eastern Europe, the state of Ohio, all that is really intended with an eye of how to at the end get the compute in our key markets like Canada.”
Q: What makes Canada such an attractive talent pool?
Greg: “A lot of the roles where we hired Canadians were because they were the best engineers for that function on earth that happened to be sitting here. And now more and more, we recognize that and we’re going to continue to invest.
Denis: “The top talent and the diversity of the talent that we’re getting and the immigration policy in Canada. So it’s really pushing forward to get more of those talents. It’s easy for us to get the right talent coming from all over the world working for us in Canada when compared to many other geographies in the world. So the government is really helping there on the immigration side.”
Q: Is Intel supporting any semiconductor incubators in Canada?
Denis: “As we’re putting our strategy together, we have a big chunk of our plan, which is all the trade incubator associations. We’re starting all those conversations with all the key partners that we need to be involved with… I’m sure you have seen last year when we made the announcement with Mila. That was the first step in starting to make more investments and working with the key labs and incubators in the country.
Last year in May, we made an announcement of an industrial partnership with Mila in Montreal. As you know, they’re [one of the] largest deep learning labs in the world with dozens of scientists. So that was phase one, now we’re working on phase two. We cannot disclose what’s going on, but we’re working hard. Mila builds open-source algorithms, so AI around one of three vectors: one for drug discovery, one for climate change, and one for new materials. We’re partnering with them, especially on the drug discovery and the climate change sides, to optimize their algorithm on Intel architecture so they can get better, faster results. That was phase one for a year. And now we’re looking at phase two, and it’s looking very good.”
Q: Any interest in joining the Canadian Semiconductor Council that was just formed?
Denis: “Same thing, we’re looking at all the angles right now…so things are going super fast. We’re talking with a lot of people and looking at what our options are and where we should go.”
Q: Intel has been increasing its semiconductor manufacturing capacities. Back in May, it announced that it was going to run on 100 per cent renewable energy by 2030. So even with this aggressive expansion, is that target still on track?
Greg: “That’s part of our RISE strategy and part of our sustainability report. Even with all the announcements, those are the north star targets that we’re working towards consistently.
“We’ve been doing it early on…and really focusing on the manufacturing of semiconductors with 100 per cent conflict-free materials sourced from all over the world. That was a part of our strategy 10 years ago, we just kept it quiet. It was the right thing to do for humanity, but we didn’t feel the need to talk about it. And now what we’re excited about is that more and more of the customers are interested in that piece, which is why we published the RISE 2030 report.”
Q: Intel has signed a joint development partnership with IBM. How’s that going?
Greg: “It’s going well! Everything is on track there, we’re continuing to innovate with them. Frankly, what we announced last May was just the start. And we’ve actually innovated on top of that, so more to come from there. The partnership is strong and will continue.”
Q: Any chance you can give me a glimpse of what products are being developed?
Greg: “Not today, haha, when we’re ready to announce, we will do it.”