A commercial shift to innovation strategy

It was an expected policy, but it is not a revolution that the Minister in charge of Regional Economic Development and the Minister of Economy and Innovation of Quebec, Pierre Fitzgibbon, proposed on Thursday, with the presentation of the new Quebec Strategy Research and Investment in Innovation. (SQRI2) 2022-2027. Ultimately, the minister resolutely wants the research to take a commercial turn, so that it can move from idea to market more easily.

Posted at 6.30am

What sets the new strategy apart from the old one is simply that we added the investment function to the title “Quebec Strategy for Research in Innovation” because we decided to invest more, especially in the marketing of “innovation”.

The Ministry of Economy and Innovation has therefore decided to add 2 billion extra credits over the next five years, bringing public investment in research and innovation to 7.5 billion by 2027. †

We want the fundamental research of universities to be more valued and to provide more opportunities for companies.

“We have released 900 million to build a bridge between university research and business. Innovations often end up in Death Valley because investors aren’t ready to take the plunge. We will facilitate this step before private financing,” suggested Mr Fitzgibbon.

True to his hobby, the ultimate goal of this improved research and innovation framework is part of the minister’s desire to reduce the productivity gaps between companies in Quebec and Ontario by at least half by 2027.

After extensive consultation with the different players in Quebec’s research and innovation ecosystem and the submission of more than 230 documents, Mr. Fitzgibbon decided to formulate his strategy around five priorities.

We need to better connect all players in the innovation cycle and simplify business support services. The strategy also aims to promote innovation within the entities of the State of Quebec, particularly in the areas of health or education.

Since innovation must also leave a visible mark on all aspects of human life and thus promote sustainable and social development, the strategy is committed to participating in the financing of initiatives that go in this direction.

Talent development is also one of the spearheads of the strategy. Only 23% of students in Quebec enroll in science, engineering or math, compared to 35% in Ontario.

Finally, the new strategy will continue to deploy innovation zones that have recently been designated, such as Sherbrooke in quantum or Bromont in digital. Mile-Ex should soon be declared an innovation zone for artificial intelligence.

Performance evaluation and housekeeping

Although this new strategy is therefore not a revolution, but rather an update, an update of objectives already set, Pierre Fitzgibbon also relies heavily on the support and contribution of the Innovation Council, which was on foot last year.

Innovation Council President and Rector of Université Laval, Sophie D’Amours, made clear during the launch of the new strategy that universities were ready to lead the way to democratize research and share innovation.

The President of the Council also recognized the importance of establishing a barometer and performance indicators to measure which programs are delivering expected or consistent results.

The minister himself admitted that he had not been able to identify the exact number of subsidy providers that are active in or around the world of research and innovation.

“I’ve seen at least sixty. There is certainly a way to rationalize, but I am not the one who will do the evaluation and make the decision. The Innovation Council can do that,” the minister said at a press conference.

Likewise, the Innovation Council will be able to examine the tax credit program for research and development. Tax credits alone represent nearly $3 billion of the $7.5 billion in research and innovation funding planned for the next five years.

In Quebec, we have large-scale R&D tax credit programs whose performance and real scope deserve to be reassessed. Programs that could focus on more businesses that really need them, or be phased out altogether to be replaced by direct investment in businesses that really need them.

“We may be called upon to replace tax credits with direct subsidies, we’ll see,” Pierre Fitzgibbon agreed on Thursday, counting on the Innovation Council’s oversight work to guide him as appropriate.

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