Innovation Roundtable

August 18, 2016—Montreal, QC
Across all Action Areas
Hosted by Austin Hill and Janie Béïque

Area of Focus

1) Entrepreneurial and creative society; 2) Global Science Excellence; 3) World Leading clusters and partnerships; 4) Grow Companies & Accelerate Clean Growth; 5) Compete in a digital world; 6) Ease of Doing Business.


Opportunities exist for the government to develop a vision, promote Canada's brand and lead by example.

Clusters are strong and well-structured in a number of sectors across Quebec's economy and we need to build on this. The geographic cluster remains important, and the government should continue facilitating collaboration among the various players as well as collaborative research with other jurisdictions and countries. Although collaboration between industry and universities has significantly improved, universities' processes are too long for SMEs.

The implementation of projects that call on the participation of a number of different groups in Quebec, such as the development of a big data hub, could create major opportunities for inclusive innovation. We also need to create incentives to improve commercialization.

Summary of Discussion

The government should consider efforts to de-risk projects in order to attract foreign capital.;. Review tax incentives, regulations, and programs to encourage increased export opportunities and collective investment in innovation activities. Through a well-articulated and supported innovation strategy, the Government can demonstrate that innovation is a Canadian priority.

Key Implementation Considerations/Challenges

Skilled workers: Quebec attracts a large number of talented foreign students. Although 50% of them wish to stay after they have finished school, only 20% are able to do so, primarily due to immigration issues. The focus should be on measures to facilitate the process for people who wish to stay in Quebec. There is also a need to involve the entire population, including Aboriginal workers, to promote innovation.

Assets: Montreal is well positioned at the global level for big data and other sectors, with its skilled workers, internationally renowned researchers and a conducive environment (inexpensive energy for storing big data). Canada also has a unique health care system that presents major opportunities through the application of big data relating to the management patient files to supporting the development of new and innovative solutions to fight disease.

Digital Internet: Funding the development of IT infrastructure for the digital highway is essential to keeping the economy running smoothly and facilitating public participation. Since Canada has some of the most expensive bandwidth in the world, we should encourage more competition to bring prices down.

Training: Implement a national policy to get youth interested in entrepreneurship and careers in science and technology, starting in grade school. Encourage corporations to engage young people through programs such as Bombardier's Passion pour l'aviation. Encourage continuous training for individuals.

Commercialization: The challenges of business growth are common at this stage. The Industrial Research Assistance Program is still needed and it works well for SMEs, but we have to come up with ways of finding clients and testing markets for new innovative technologies.

Red tape: Tax credits for scientific research and experimental development are too complex for SMEs, and the eligibility criteria do not necessarily encourage innovation. The Small Business Innovation Research program in the United States is a good example of government support program that supports innovation activities among SME's.

International standards: In Canada, Health Canada's product approval process takes over a year, while the Food and Drug Administration's processing time is only a month. To increase our competitiveness, the government should play a more active role by amending, harmonizing and developing regulations, for disruptive technologies in particular.

Top Ideas/Outcomes

Brand image: With a clear vision, the government should support the major mobilization projects that have the potential to stand out internationally and that ensure partnerships between universities, large companies and SMEs. One example in Quebec is SAGE—the mobilization project for the most eco-friendly airplane.

Talent and succession: Attract highly qualified workers or researchers with a new class of visa for people coming to work in start-ups. The digital skills gap within companies may also need to be filled, by supporting the digital shift. Provide entrepreneurship training to youth at an early age.

Lines of business: In Quebec, some sectors and technologies perform well on the global scale, including aeronautics, artificial intelligence, photonics, advanced manufacturing, internet of things and transportation electrification. Projects that integrate several technologies are needed to foster innovation.

Partnership: Foster collaboration between universities and industry with co-op placements. The University of Waterloo model is an example worth following. Promoters that facilitate the coaching and selection of start-ups at university, such as Accélérateur de création d'entreprises technologiques in Sherbrooke, which strives to transform student projects into commercial enterprises, have good success. Give SMEs access to equipment funded by the government and located at the universities.

Intellectual property: To improve university-industry collaboration, two avenues are worth considering: a pilot project that offers a tax incentive to researchers so they work with businesses; and projects like the C2MI collaborative centre, which implemented a royalty agreement between the partners to ensure that the intellectual property stays with the person who takes the business risk. After a success, the professor and university receive money for another project.

Clusters: To be viable, originators that can identify the sector's main issues and find solutions must be mobilized. For sectors where there are no large companies, like clean technologies, companies must be rally behind a common issue to resolve. Increased efforts to promote awareness around Canadian capability during foreign economic missions may lead to increased export opportunities for Canadian companies.

Attraction of companies: Fund joint projects with other countries in Europe and the United States, similar to Tech DemoFunding for foreign companies that form partnerships with Canadian SMEs should be encouraged.

Procurement: To boost SME business activity in Canada, inspiration could be drawn from the United Kingdom, whereby Crown procurements, require bidders to incorporate a percentage of their purchases with local SME's.

Date modified: