With the “The Coolest Hotspot”, Québec consolidates its international recognition as a stronghold of innovation and expertise in life sciences and health tech
by Andréa Ciaffone
Innovation – and all the benefits engendered – comes from people. However, what makes the great ideas of creative scientists come true and gain space in people’s lives is the possibility to have a propitious environment to develop their projects. More than physical spaces such as laboratories, researchers need a more robust structure, able to support their work, promote exchange with other specialists and also assist them in attracting investments – this is the role of The Coolest Hotspot, a platform created to support innovative initiatives in Life Sciences and Health Technology, LSHT.
The Coolest Hotspot is an umbrella initiative led by Quebec Life Sciences and Health Technologies (LSHT) sector players aiming to represent the ecosystem with an outlook toward regional promotion for investment attraction. The initiative brings together industry partners, local economic development and investment promotion agencies, as well as research organizations committed to advancing the LSHT area, increasing its international reach, visibility, and competitiveness – all as a way to consolidate some of the government objectives outlined in the Quebec Life Sciences Strategy 2017-2027.
The government recognizes the importance of the LSHT industry in Quebec, which is why it created the 2017-2027 Quebec Life Sciences Strategy. This ambitious plan aims to attract $4 billion in private investment to Quebec by 2022 and to make the province one of the sector’s five largest North American hubs by 2027.
Everything indicates that the achievement of this goal is going in great strides, because today the province is already a world-renowned scientific excellence hub combining key expertise for the future: Biopharmaceuticals, Medical Technologies, and Digital Health with expertise in artificial intelligence (AI) and deep learning – segments in which Québec has international recognition.
Such prestige is only possible thanks to several factors that contribute to the attractiveness of the province. Life sciences and health technologies play an important economic role, in addition to producing numerous innovations and contributing to improving people’s quality of life. In Quebec, this sector is currently thriving. It includes stakeholders from various backgrounds who work together to make fascinating discoveries, generate new, cutting-edge applications, and develop innovative therapies. The members of Quebec’s ecosystem operate in synergy – namely through networks and agreements – to create a robust and internationally-recognized industry. The development of health innovations is a major activity in Quebec.
Quebec is also The Coolest Talent Pool, recognized as the best student spot in the Americas comprising of highly creative, educated, and multilingual workforce with 10,000 graduate students per year in health-related programs.
The interest is also explained by the strategic location of the province with privileged access to the world’s two biggest free-trade zones: The North American market, with close to 500 million consumers, and the European market, with over 500 million consumers. Overall, Quebec has a unique interconnected, thriving, and collaborative ecosystem in connection with international business corridor with main hub in Life Sciences; an innovation ecosystem built for the future and is the destination of choice for world leaders of health. The medical technology segment (medtech) represents 40% of all jobs and more than 50% of companies in the LSHT sector.
“Québec and Brazil are complementary partners fostering innovation and developing collaborative projects in the Life Sciences and Health Technology sectors. Quebec and Brazilian institutions have established fruitful partnerships over the years, and The Coolest Hotspot platform will help stimulate the exchange of experiences between the two regions, as well as contribute to fostering greater commercial rapprochement between our companies,” says Jason Naud, director of the Québec Office in São Paulo.
Innovation in life sciences has increasingly been in alignment with the development of scientific and technological innovation, including artificial intelligence applied to health. As Québec stands out as the world leader in AI and Deep Learning, many biotechnology and medicine researchers seek the benefits that only a dynamic ecosystem where scientific genius and new ideas become reality can offer, creating consortiums to accelerate the integration of innovations into the health system. Considered a global leader in AI, Montreal hosts two of the most relevant entities in the industry that work synergistically: Mila – Institut québécois d’intelligence artificielle, an AI research institute that brings together experienced researchers, produces a multitude of influential discoveries and acts as an incubator for startups that arise from the development of new technologies – and IVADO, a Québec-wide collaborative institute in the field of digital intelligence, dedicated to transforming new scientific discoveries into concrete applications and benefits for all of society.
“The Coolest Hotspot is a tool that contributes
to the mobilization of this innovative ecosystem and that should improve international attractiveness of the sector over the coming years”
The choice of name The Coolest Hotspot feels just right. After all, Québec has a unique, interconnected, prosperous and collaborative ecosystem, where world leaders in the medical and pharmaceutical industry coexist in harmony with a booming startup ecosystem with more than 30 business incubators and accelerators. Québec offers an ideal environment and a top-notch physical infrastructure to help researchers and entrepreneurs who are developing high-impact innovations, in addition to hosting promising startups such as NEOMED Institute, Biotech City, CENTECH, CQIB, CTS Santé, Espace LABz and the Interdisciplinary Institute of Technological Innovation – 3IT.
Tech + Med + Money
The majority of basic research – the branch of science behind any new treatment or application – takes place in universities. This explains why most knowledge and new insights originate in academic research settings. Quebec researchers are prolific in this area, as highlighted by the Fonds de Recherche du Québec – Santé (FRQS), a public organization that offers financial support while ensuring the strategic and coherent development of health science research in the province.
Québec is actively involved in fostering academic research. Ranked first in clinical trials, the province holds the largest research center in Canada with the most numerous group of university researchers and the largest dedicated budget. Between 2018 and 2019, researchers obtained CAD 679 million in investment, representing 27% of Canadian public funding, while only 23% of university laboratories are located in the province. Québec researchers excel in many areas such as Oncology, Genomics, Precision medicine, Cellular therapy, Cardiovascular and Metabolic diseases, Neuroscience and Mental health, Infectious, Rare diseases, and Aging.
Thanks to a combination of competitive advantages such as market access, attracting highly skilled labor, high-level academic research and generous tax incentives, Québec has managed to become a hub for producing disruptive solutions in LSHT. The Coolest Hotspot is a tool that contributes to the mobilization of this innovative ecosystem and that should improve international attractiveness of the sector over the coming years.