The leader in public and private spending on research and development, Quebec is struggling to reap the benefits from its efforts in innovation. But the government wants to turn this around. To do so, in the fall it conducted consultations on developing the new Quebec Research and Innovation Strategy. The Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal took part in these consultations and sent a clear message: to stimulate innovation in Quebec, we need to support innovation more broadly, from educating young people to creating innovative business models and marketing new products. Here are five strategies the Chamber proposed to do this.
1. Develop comprehensive, flexible, effective innovation support programs
Let’s look back at the landmark innovations of recent years. Whether in terms of consumption, travel or listening to music, our day-to-day habits have changed quite a bit. These innovations are often the result of technology advances that emerge from research and development (geolocation, mobile web, e-commerce). However, their application in our daily lives is generally the result of new, innovative business models. Innovation is not limited to labs and university research centres: it is found in every aspect of the production process and service offer.
Our innovation support programs need to reflect this reality. They need to be developed to meet a need or objective, and not just to push an idea forward. The programs the government puts in place need to be flexible and suited to the realities of companies, while quickly providing funds to avoid unneeded strain on a company’s cash flow.
2. Support the entire innovation process: from idea to commercialization
When we look at the number of patents filed in Quebec and the number of businesses created here, it is clear that Quebec has a fairly low return on investment. This needs to be addressed.
The Government of Quebec therefore needs to support all forms of innovation, including the commercialization and acquisition of new technologies. The government needs to facilitate knowledge transfer from institutions of higher learning to companies. It should also target the rapid acquisition of innovations by SMEs. And commercialization must be at the centre of innovation programs for businesses, from the initial stages of support.
3. Offer SMEs easier access to innovation programs
Montréal’s innovation ecosystem is based on a proven system of industry clusters. Thanks to the considerable competitive advantage they offer, clusters enable businesses of all sizes to innovate.
However, the majority of spending on research and development in Quebec is done by a handful of major companies. To ensure SMEs have a larger role in innovation, the Government of Quebec needs to adopt practices that take into account the situation of the smallest businesses. One example to follow would be the American Small Business Innovation Research program. Divided into three distinct phases, it streamlines the transition between the stages of research and the commercialization of an innovation, while guaranteeing concrete results for the government.
4. Bank on talent
Innovation can’t happen without reflection. An educated workforce is therefore needed to build an innovative society. To create innovation, you need to design programs of study that encourage the development of ideas and provide the management tools to do so. However, sometimes the creation and adoption of innovative processes and products require highly specialized knowledge that cannot be found in Quebec. From this perspective, the Government of Quebec needs to facilitate bringing specialized workers in and creating an environment that helps attract talent.
5. Develop an innovative public service that embraces change
To encourage the development of a culture of innovation, the public service needs to take leadership in this area. It needs an action plan, the goal of which is to create an open, flexible public service. In its brief, the Chamber proposes a number of avenues of solutions: creating a position responsible for innovation; introducing monitoring of innovative practices, working with one or more universities; and using requests for innovation for the delivery of government services.
Chamber’s recommendations on the Quebec Strategy on Research and Innovation (in French only)