The “deeptech” to attack the challenges of tomorrow’s society

This text is part of a special Quebec engineering booklet

Combining the ash of the university’s science and engineering laboratories with industry knowledge, the deep technology (disruptive technologies) develop products at the very edge of innovation to meet major societal challenges. The major players in the world of tomorrow are writing today, these complex technologies are increasingly evolving, although challenges remain in implementing their full potential.

“The deep technology, it is one of our great strengths here in Quebec. In terms of change and Get started, it is one of the places where we can distinguish ourselves on the international scene, particularly for the quality of our university network. We are among the best in the OECD [Organisation de coopération et de développement économiques] in terms of public research and that means we have tremendous potential, ”said Richard Chénier, director general of Centech, a university business incubator focused on deep technology with strong growth potential.

“It’s driven by a lot of academia because of the universities where we usually do the most cutting-edge research. Companies would be great then, could accept these technologies and incorporate them into products, or make some refining work – often necessary – to make the processes work Get started who will drift [directement] academic work, ”added Christian Gagné, professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and director of the Intelligence and Data Institute at Université Laval.

Disruptive technologies for daunting challenges

Characterized by a certain level of technological complexity, innovation deep technology often rotating in a mesh of different technologies, handling different fields. In this regard, we can think of artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, quantum computing, biotechnologies, photonics, etc.

“Nasa deep technology, there are various niches that bring the advent of young shoots dedicated to advanced technologies. AI is one of the strong areas where there are major changes, [d’autant] that there has been an explosion around the development and support of AI in the last decade ”, argues artificial intelligence specialist Christian Gagné, recalling that Canada is“ very well positioned ”in this field on the international scene.

Also, the social impact of deep technology is far from meaningless. “When it comes to climate, improving the quality of life or health of people, etc., more complex technologies are part of the solution to large [défis] Of our society. Businesses deep technology will address 90% of the challenges raised by the UN, and therefore inevitable ”, argues Richard Chénier.

For example, in 2019, a study by Boston Consulting Group and the non-profit organization Hello Tomorrow estimated that the United Nations goal to receive more attention from deep technology is good health and well -being (for 51% of them). In addition, 28% of deep technology have a tendency to have an influence on the sustainability of cities and communities, while climate action is part of the goals of 22% of them. In its annual report, the European Startups project crowned 2021 as “the year of deep technology », Not without remembering that a [ancienne] a young European shoot symbolizes the success of these key players: BioNtech, to whom we owe-along with Pfizer-the development of the anti-COVID vaccine of the same name.

Still potentially under-exploited?

Quebec is not to be outdone and also relies on a talent nest aimed at changing the situation. “An example that works well is Sollum Technologies, which can artificially reproduce the spectrum [de la lumière] of the sun, thus meeting important challenges in greenhouse agriculture. There are also Puzzle Medical Devices, which have developed a heart pump that can be implanted in patients without invasively. So there is no need for open-heart surgery ”, said Richard Chénier, citing examples of success from the Centech incubator.

However, the Director General considers the potential of deep technology from here it has not been sufficiently exploited. “That is the challenge. We make a lot of knowledge, but not enough products are coming deep technology and meets market needs. This is where we can do more work to create more value using developed technologies. »

An observation that seems to be shared by the National Research Council Canada, the largest federal research and development organization in the country. In a report published in April, he further lamented that “the traditional model of commercialization that uses venture capital leaves most of the most promising research on disruptive technologies that have profound impacts on the sidelines, whereas it is possible, through commercialization, to change them. ideas into innovations that will transform society ”.

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