Incubators | A healthy “coopetition” in Quebec

Quebec has more than 80 incubators and accelerators that help hundreds of young companies succeed every year. Picture an increasingly diverse ecosystem, marked by specializations, collaborations and collaborations with the university community.

Posted on Sep 12, 2019

Emilie Laperriere

Emilie Laperriere
special cooperation

Things are going well in the incubators business, even if not everything is going well. “Yes, there is dynamism. But on the other hand, only half of the companies surveyed by the recent Bonjour Startup Montréal study will use the support of incubators, ”observed Manaf Bouchentouf, Executive Director of the Institut d’entrepreneurship Banque Nationale-HEC Montréal.

The main challenge is positioning, he believes. “The offer is good. Incubators should offer very clear programs that target a specific client. »

According to Louis-Félix Binette, Executive Director of Quebec’s Movement of Innovation Accelerators, the environment has changed significantly in recent years. “We see many programs, especially in the regions. All sorts of patterns appear. »

One incubator for each sector

From the cosmetic industry to the food industry, the incubation offer now varies by sector and according to needs. This is the case of MT Lab, the first tourism, culture and entertainment incubator, which opened in September 2017.

“The goal is to create a space that will allow start-ups to see the world of tourism, culture and entertainment as a place of change”, explains its general manager, Martin Lessard.

The latter can say the mission accomplished, because the request cannot be denied. After the first cohort of 8 start-ups in 2017, then 12 in 2018, MT Lab welcomes 15 companies this year. In less than two years, the incubator became known throughout the Francophonie. It even lacks space and will expand its area to offer 30 more co-working areas.

Exchanges and “collaboration”

With over 80 incubators and accelerators in Quebec, do we feel a certain competition? Manaf Bouchentouf calls it instead “coopetition”.

“We work together because we have no choice. The entrepreneur, in any case, will have the reflex to go through some incubation program. The challenge is for everyone to work together. »

– Manaf Bouchentouf, Executive Director of the National Bank Institute of Entrepreneurship – HEC Montréal

Because his offer is unique, Martin Lessard doesn’t really feel like competing with others. “We’re complementary,” he said. We have worked with Centech, Maison Notman and La Piscine in particular since the beginning. We do co-incubation. »

Centech director Richard Chénier agrees. “You have to find your niche. We found it, we did, and we’re performing well. The numbers prove he’s right. Centech, which oversees nearly 50% of Quebec’s start-ups, is one of the 20 best that university incubator in the world. Mr. Chénier regrets, however, that the impact of fashion leads to the creation of incubators without any real reflection behind them. “You need evaluation and many more projects, otherwise the chances of companies being born in the end are small, ”he said.

Business incubators

The network between universities and large companies is not new, but the trend is gaining momentum. “The model is changing. Companies are no longer calling on universities just for their knowledge. They are looking for their expertise in all fields, from deploying a technology to marketing it,” Manaf Bouchentouf said.

“Today we are talking about excubation, added Louis-Félix Binette. Large companies that have traditionally had large research and development budgets have discovered that the entrepreneurial universe is a rich pool of innovation. Universities have discovered. set up acceleration structures. It creates interesting bridges between the two. »

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