On October 16, 2013, Pierre Duchesne, Quebec Minister of Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology, unveiled Quebec’s National Research and Innovation Policy (known by its French abbreviation PNRI). The policy, which entails an investment by the provincial government of about $3.7 billion over five years, proposes measures to boost research and innovation, some of which could have a real impact on economic development in Quebec. These include some measures that touch the life sciences sector.
Policies to promote scientific entrepreneurship and to commercialize industrial innovation
To permit greater collaboration among stakeholders in the research and innovation sectors, a new research and innovation network, to be known as the Réseau recherche innovation Québec (RRIQ), will bring together almost 120 knowledge mobilization agencies, such as research consortiums, applied research centres, etc. Building on existing public platforms and infrastructures, the RRIQ’s principal role will be to promote the results of applied research internationally, make results available to public and private sector stakeholders and create employment for a new generation of researchers in industrial research.
Companies will be able to join the RRIQ and access all the services offered by the RRIQ through a new, interactive digital platform called QuébecInnove. This platform, designed to meet the needs of business and reflecting the resources offered by the various agencies, will facilitate interaction between the members of the RRIQ. A new tool, called Passeport Innovation, will create a bank of hours offering access to the varied expertise of the members of the RRIQ, particularly in intellectual property.
In addition, the Quebec research funds program for innovative researchers will be enhanced to provide additional funding for innovative or applied research projects. Members of the RRIQ will be eligible for funding to encourage them to hire recent graduates for fixed term research projects.
With a view to providing more support to the industrial research sector, the PNRI proposes to create three new industrial research sectors for the major areas of the Quebec economy. The three sectors will be: electrification of transport, agri-business and a third sector yet to be determined by the Department of Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology.
The program Premier Brevet will be set up under the PNRI, to provide financial and technical assistance to small businesses that are interested in filing a first patent application with the Canadian Intellectual Property Office. The Premier Brevet program will cover the fees of the patent agent or lawyer who facilitates the application, as well as filing fees.
The PNRI will enhance support to technology start-ups. In practice, this will mean access to the RRIQ and easier access to the assistance offered by technology business incubators and university entrepreneurship centres.
The Department of Finance and the Economy will provide economic support to small businesses that want to develop a product, service or process, from the design stage to the marketing stage.
Finally, as an incentive to continue to attract world-class research activities to Quebec, local and foreign private businesses that develop and equip research laboratories in Quebec for new research centres or to perform research mandates with a global scope, will be eligible for financial assistance.
Policies to encourage collaboration and excellence
About fifteen non-renewable Quebec research chairs will be established, chiefly focused on the Quebec identity. The chairs will be awarded following a request for proposal process. Priority will be given to young researchers and scholars in academic environments who wish to develop world class expertise. About one hundred scholarships will also be awarded for visiting foreign researchers.
Since the funding of indirect research costs is a major issue for research institutions, the PNRI will propose measures to correct the existing situation. It is expected that a new long-term funding formula will be adopted in recognition of the fact that research programs are also training grounds.
As regards the international reputation of Quebec research, the PNRI creates the InnoMonde fund and will give additional support to international cooperation to encourage research scientists, their host institutions and their research groups to develop international partnerships. In practice, the InnoMonde fund will encourage Quebec researchers to apply for more funding from federal and international institutions. The Quebec government has also committed to match every dollar of funding obtained outside Quebec, up to a predetermined maximum. Additional support will be provided for initiatives that involve international collaboration. More specifically, this measure is intended to fund visits by foreign researchers to Quebec and to support missions or workshops that require Quebec researchers to travel abroad. Universities will receive subsidies to develop a business plan that will allow them to break into world markets.
Policies for education of the next generation
An additional $25 million will be injected into the improvement of science infrastructures in schools. To encourage businesses to participate actively in educating the next generation, the government will allow them to fund partnerships to set up sensitization workshops for students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Institutions of higher education will be encouraged to partner with technology and multimedia enterprises. Multimedia enterprises will also receive additional funding to develop games for science and math learning at all levels.