Supporting innovation is essential to our prosperity

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Only in French: Lettre ouverte – Rédigée par Mme Marie-Pierre Ippersiel, présidente et directrice générale, PRIMA Québec, et co-signée par les Directeurs généraux des RSRI *

In its November 30 economic update, the Government of Canada announced $250 million over five years, starting next year, to support companies in innovation to stimulate growth and job creation, and enable them to sustain the recovery from the crisis. For its part, as part of its budget update presented on November 12, the Quebec government planned to invest $147.5 million over two years to support research and innovation. These investments are strategic for Quebec companies, which have made a considerable contribution during this pandemic.

We are witnessing a global emergency in real time, demonstrating the vital importance of innovation for businesses and public services alike. It’s true that the pandemic has also put companies around the world to the test. Overnight, companies of all sizes, from multinationals to SMEs, saw their business models collapse like a house of cards. Many have no choice but to innovate or perish.

Some have shown remarkable inventiveness and managed to adapt to the new context in record time, for example by converting their operations to design and produce personal protective equipment for employees of our healthcare facilities. Our entrepreneurs have good ideas, but these are not enough; industrial innovation requires the mobilization of a wide range of factors: knowledge and talent, research facilities, financial support, an appropriate regulatory framework, competent partners and suppliers, national and international networks both to fuel research and to commercialize the results.

Companies, especially SMEs, need personalized support with access to all these resources, as well as to the innovation expertise capable of assembling them in the precise mix required for each project. Otherwise, the best project in the world cannot be developed. It will be crucial for our various levels of government to keep up the good work; the dynamism of the innovation ecosystem, which benefits our entire economy, depends on it.

Recognizing this reality, Quebec has created 9 sector-based industrial research clusters (RSRIs) active in key sectors of the Quebec economy: aluminum, aerospace, industrial bioprocesses, biopharmaceuticals, electric power, advanced materials, information, communications and digital technologies, medical technologies and metal processing.

RSRIs act as intermediaries between the capabilities of our public and private research centers, and the needs and projects of our industrial entrepreneurs. They are also at the heart of the Quebec government’s innovation zone strategy.

From 2015 to 2018, the 9 RSRIs invested $84 million thanks to financial assistance from the Ministère de l’Économie et de l’Innovation to support the development of innovative technologies, products and processes. This financial leverage led around a thousand companies to invest over $160 million in these same technologies. The result has been hundreds of innovations that boost the productivity of our companies and enable them to develop new domestic and international markets, attract foreign investors to Quebec and create joint ventures with entrepreneurs from other countries. This support has also made it possible to train more than 1,800 graduate students, providing our companies with a highly qualified workforce.

Quebec as a whole must keep up the pace and continue to foster innovation, if we are not to fall behind competing economies. Developing knowledge and putting it to work for our companies is absolutely essential if we are to remain at the forefront of modern economies whose prosperity depends on constant innovation. Collaboration between industry and research centers boosts the scope of innovation, the impact of our public and private research investments, and the ability of our companies to assert their presence on international markets. The government’s investment is therefore more than welcome. The RSRIs, privileged partners of the government and industry, will be there.

Co-signatories:
Alain Aubertin, President and General Manager, Consortium de recherche et d’innovation en aérospatiale au Québec (CRIAQ) Mohammed Benyagoub, President and General Manager, Consortium de recherche et d’innovation en bioprocédés industriels au Québec (CRIBIQ)
Diane Côté, President and CEO, MEDTEQ+
Gilles Déry, President and General Manager, Centre québécois de recherche et de développement de l’aluminium (CQRDA)
Diane Gosselin, President and CEO, Quebec Consortium for Drug Discovery (CQDM)
Marie-Pierre Ippersiel, President and General Manager, Pôle de recherche et d’innovation en matériaux avancés (PRIMA Québec)
Jean-François Pouliot, General Manager, Consortium de recherche et d’innovation en transformation métallique (CRITM)
Luc Sirois, General Manager, PROMPT – Information, Communications and Digital Technologies
André St-Pierre, General Manager, InnovÉÉ – Innovation in Electrical Energy

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