Great Interview: Luc Sirois, Quebec Chief Innovator | A sherpa to reach the heights of innovation

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Luc Sirois, engineer-entrepreneur expert in the world of to boot, was entrusted last year with the brand new position of Chief Innovator of Quebec and Director General of the Innovation Council, which also has the mandate to ensure the follow-up of the new Quebec strategy for research and investment in innovation 2022- 2027. He explains the problems surrounding his position and the challenges that await him.

Posted at 9:00

Jean-Philippe Decarie

Jean-Philippe Decarie
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The Quebec government unveiled its new research and innovation strategy last week, which foresees investments of $ 7.5 billion over the next five years to stimulate, in particular, better commercialization of innovation, and this is Luc Sirois which will have to partially orchestrate the smooth execution of this strategy.

But, before we go any further, what exactly is an innovating leader?

“Historically, in Quebec, we have been very successful in academic or fundamental research and we have a chief scientist who oversees all of this activity. Over the past 10 years, however, we have seen a decline in applied research and innovation in companies, which is why we have created the position of chief innovator, “replies Luc Sirois.

Before being appointed to his office, in December 2020, Luc Sirois had the mandate of the Minister of Economic Development and Innovation, Pierre Fitzgibbon, to report all the activities of the various bodies for the transfer and promotion of university and university research. under a single tent.

We were doing less well than the North American average. Organizations such as Valorem or Valeo, identified with an educational institution, were disbanded to consolidate all development activities into a single organization, Axelys, which now coordinates everything.

Luc Sirois, chief innovator of Quebec and also chairman of the board of Axelys

Axelys is today at the forefront, since the organization has also integrated the 59 Collegiate Centers for Technology Transfer (CCTT), private institutes, such as the National Institute of Optics (INO) or the Computer Research Center of Montreal (CRIM) and all hospital research centers …

“We have launched a broad net. We have 60 innovation brokers who come and live in universities and institutes, confronting researchers at the bar in the morning. We want to get closer to the American media for news creation to bootwe are only halfway through their rate of creation of new shots “, underlines Luc Sirois.

“We particularly want to ensure that there are funds available for pre-launching new innovations so that they can continue their development cycle. ”

Drive and measure

The chief innovator and the Innovation Council will have a triple role to play in Québec’s new strategy for research and investment in innovation: directing companies to the right resources, creating a barometer to assess the performance of public funding in research and development (R&D) and ultimately support innovation consultants across Quebec.

“We can count on more than 300 innovation specialists in RCM, CLD, in the offices of Investissement Québec, who are in all regions and who know their companies well. We will direct them to the right organizations to meet their needs, just like we will for companies, ”explains Luc Sirois.

The Innovation Council thus becomes the reference center for all companies that want to develop innovative projects and find substantial funding.

In addition to this Sherpa role, the Innovation Council must establish a barometer within two years to correctly assess the performance of the grants that have been granted in R&D.

Luc Sirois agrees that there are many grant agencies in Quebec and this barometer will allow us to collect data on their performance and then measure its relevance.

Our barometer will be used to measure several indicators. Economically, in the first place, how funding served entrepreneurship and how it enabled the talents and workforce to develop within the companies that benefited from the programs.

Luc Sirois

“We will also measure and evaluate the impact of our fundraising activities on social innovation and climate change,” adds the innovator. It is part of our mandate. ”

Within two years, the Council will have mapped research and innovation funding in Quebec by determining the regions that made the best use of it, the business sectors that benefited most, and will seek to determine the impact this funding has. had on business productivity and the commercialization of innovation.

After ten years of declining investment in research and innovation, the Council wishes to turn the tide.

Is this decline in R&D spending the sole result of a decline in spending by large companies like Bombardier or Pratt & Whitney, which have come to an end on some important programs, such as the development of the old Series C?

Luc Sirois claims he does not have the answer to this question, but it is certain, it is that innovation is lagging behind in Quebec and that this is affecting our score on the North American scale. There is something to recover.

“We want to double the number of new ones to boot within five years, just as we want to double the number of innovation transfers from educational institutions to businesses and society in general over the same period. We have to go back to being innovative ”, sums up the chief innovator.

“We have to start moving from idea to production again. It’s not easy, but companies need to rediscover this reflection. Many don’t even ask the question. We have to start asking ourselves, ”she concludes.

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