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

Luc Sirois, engineer-entrepreneur trained in the world of Get started, was entrusted last year with the new position of Chief Innovator of Quebec and Director General of the Innovation Council, which also has a mandate to ensure follow-up of the new Quebec Strategy for Research and of investment in innovation 2022-2027. He explained the issues surrounding his position and the challenges that await him.

Posted at 9:00 am

Jean-Philippe Decarie

Jean-Philippe Decarie
The Press

The Quebec Government announced its new approach to research and innovation last week, providing investments of $ 7.5 billion over the next five years to stimulate, in particular, the better commercialization of innovation, and it was Luc Sirois which needs to be slightly adjusted properly. running this technique.

But, before proceeding, what exactly is a chief innovator?

“Historically, in Quebec, we have been successful in the field of academic or basic research and we have a chief scientist who oversees all of this activity. Over the past 10 years, however, we have observed a decline in applied research and change in companies, and that’s why we created the position of chief innovator, ”Luc Sirois replied.

Prior to being appointed to his position, in December 2020, Luc Sirois had an order from the Minister of Economic Development and Innovation, Pierre Fitzgibbon, to restore all activities of various organizations for the transfer and advancement of college research. . and university. under a single tent.

We don’t do much better than we usually do in North American. Organizations like Valorem or Valeo, identified as an educational institution, melted down 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 now leads, as the organization also includes 59 Collegiate Centers for Technology Transfer (CCTT), private institutions, such as the National Institute of Optics (INO) or Computer Research Center of Montreal (CRIM), and all research centers in hospital …

“Our net is wide. We have 60 innovation brokers who come and live in universities and institutes, they talk to researchers in the coffee shop in the morning. We want to be close to the American average for making news Get startedwe are still in the middle of their rate of creating new shoots, ”emphasizes Luc Sirois.

“We want to make sure that there is funding available for the pre-startup of new innovations so that they can continue their development cycle.»

Guide and measure

The Chief Innovator and the Innovation Council will have a triple role to play in the new Québec 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, finally, supporting innovation advisors throughout Quebec.

“We can count on more than 300 innovation specialists in RCMs, CLDs, in Investissement Québec offices, who are in all regions and know their companies very well. We will refer them to the right organizations to meet their needs, just as we do for businesses, ”Luc Sirois explains.

So the Innovation Council 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 properly assess the performance of funding provided to R&D.

Luc Sirois agrees that there are many giving agencies in Quebec, and this barometer will make it possible to collect data on their performance and thus measure their relevance.

Our barometer will be used to measure some indicators. At the economic level, first, how financing has served entrepreneurship and how it has made it possible to develop talent and the workforce within companies that have benefited from the programs.

Luc Sirois

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

Over the next two years, the Council will map research and innovation funding in Quebec by identifying the regions that have used it best, the sectors of activity that have most benefited from it and will work to determine the impact of that funding. ito. there was in business productivity and in the commercialization of change.

After ten years of declining investment in research and innovation, the Council wants to change the trend.

Is this decrease in R&D spending solely a result of the decrease in spending by large companies such as Bombardier or Pratt & Whitney, which have already completed some major programs, such as the development of the old C Series?

Luc Sirois proved that he had no answer to this question, but he was sure, it was the change in Quebec and that it was affecting our score on the North American scale. There is some catching up to be done.

“We want to double the number of new ones Get started within five years, as we want to double at the same time the number of changes transferred from educational institutions to businesses and society in general. We need to be innovative again ”, summarizes the chief innovator.

“We have to start moving from idea to remake. It’s not easy, but companies have to rediscover this reflex. Many don’t ask. We have to start asking ourselves that,” he concluded.

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