TSMC: Doubling down on Ottawa

TSMC, the world’s largest dedicated IC foundry, has been in Ottawa for more than a decade and it’s eager to expand its operations. Specifically, the company is looking to hire talented engineers to work in designs for its advanced process technologies.

“We are looking to continue to grow the current talents we have, which are in memory design and custom layout,” says Cormac O’Connell, director of TSMC’s Ottawa Design Center. In August 2007, when the design center opened in Ottawa, TSMC had 20 employees here. Now it’s up to 60 and it’s not stopping there.

The company enables the semiconductor industry’s innovators by working with them to make their designs into real, functioning products, manufactured in high volume. In fact, there’s a good chance the electronics you are carrying right now contain chips made by TSMC, a multinational headquartered in Taiwan, with a design center in Canada’s capital.

TSMC was established in 1987 when large companies such as Intel, Philips and Motorola were the only ones producing computer chips, but many smaller startups were coming along with good ideas and they needed a chip manufacturer to carry them out. With the advent of the personal computer, that demand became even stronger and TSMC’s Founder Dr. Morris Chang decided there was a business for him in manufacturing chips. Soon TSMC was the leader in the logic-chip manufacturing business.

In the intervening years, TSMC has captured a good portion of the foundry segment of the global semiconductor industry, providing independent design and processing capability to semi-conductor companies. And while it was growing, it discovered Ottawa was a burgeoning hub for chip design. A company called Emerging Memory Technology (EMT) that was being run by TSMC was designing embedded memories, which were being used on chips. TSMC decided it would be useful to bring that little group to its larger table. In 2007, the folks from EMT joined TSMC and the rest is a success story of a company setting up in the right environment and flourishing.

Why Ottawa?

First, there was ready talent — high-quality, well-trained people with experience in an area of value to TSMC.

“Ontario has very high concentration of high-tech firms and Ottawa boasts a strong reputation in research and development excellence,” O’Connell says. “Also, Canadians, because their country sits beside the U.S., have to have a culture of adaptability and a certain willingness to get along.”

In addition, the quality of life in the capital also helps to attract key talent. Kevin Huynh, senior memory designer at TSMC, moved from Belgium to Ottawa for the job.

“I came to Ottawa because of the company, but also the city,” he says. “I did some research before. My whole family needed to relocate. The language made it easier for my family to be integrated in the community.”

Plus, says O’Connell, there’s a vibrant high-tech ecosystem in Ottawa and the city seems to have plenty of people who work well with different cultures easily.

“Workforce diversity was another key factor for us to consider. TSMC’s Ottawa site has nearly 20 different nationalities among its 60-person staff,” he says.


TSMC has a long-term view and instead of the hire and fire cycles for which many U.S. companies are famous, it holds on to its workers. In addition, TSMC’s Ottawa employees are fulfilled engineers who get to work on leading-edge technology.

TSMC was the first to provide 7nm process technology to its customers and also the first to bring extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography to commercial production. In 2020, the company was the first to offer 5nm process technology. “We’re leading the pack in terms of semiconductors,” says one such engineer, Adrian Earle, memory-design manager at TSMC’s Ottawa Design Center. “We’re solving problems and contributing to products that are going to be in people’s hands in a couple of years. It’s really gratifying to see someone pull out a device and use it. One of the things that’s really cool is we’re on the leading edge. If you want to make a difference, you want to be here.”

O’Connell says “it’s a real buzz to work on the most advanced research,” but he also lauds TSMC as a good company with strong values, including honour, trust, ethics and loyalty.

“Lots of companies say they have those values, but few companies actually live them. Rather than being trite about it, TSMC sees that there’s a real business reason for it,” he says. “We have to earn customers’ trust because they work with us to develop their products. TSMC does its best to earn the trust of partners whether it’s customers, employees or vendors.” In a show of optimism, TSMC’s Ottawa design center is expanding its workforce of designers to serve customers in North America and other regions around the world.

“We not only seek to support a diverse and flourishing semiconductor ecosystem in Canada and North America, we hope to tap those resources to benefit our customers around the world,” O’Connell says.

TSMC at a glance


Employees: 51,000 worldwide – 60 in Ottawa 

Years in business: 34 years 

Number of foreign markets: In 2020, TSMC maintained its leading position in the foundry segment of the global semiconductor industry with an estimated market share of 57%. The Company manufactured 11,617 different products for 510 different customers in 2020. 

Main product/service: TSMC-manufactured semiconductors serve a wide range of applications in the computer, communications, consumer, and industrial/standard segments. These products are used in a variety of end markets including mobile devices, high-performance computing, automotive electronics and the Internet of Things (IoT). 

Visit www.tsmc.com to learn more and apply.

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