Quebec Budget opens provincial coffers with $834M to stimulate research and innovation

Mark Henderson
April 18, 2017

The Quebec government has committed $834 million over five years to research and innovation, including unprecedented increases for post-secondary research after recording its second consecutive Budget surplus. The new funding arrives ahead of the province’s latest research and innovation strategy, due next month, as well as a new life sciences strategy expected before the end of April.

In stark contrast to the federal Budget released a week earlier, the Quebec Budget includes an impressive increase for the province’s three granting councils through the Fonds de recherche du Québec (FRQ). The infusion of $180 million from Quebec’s contingency fund boosts the budgets of the councils by more than 20%, providing a five-year envelope of more than $1 billion (see chart below).

“The Couillard government has balanced the books, which was a challenge for many sectors – health care, education and research and innovation. Now that it’s balanced, they’re investing in the long run,” says Quebec chief scientist Dr Rémi Quirion. “The funding for the councils is prescriptive but very broad. It invests in the next generation of researchers by supporting students at various levels, as well as networks and team grants. What’s new is the third piece, which supports social challenges, an aging society, immigration, creativity and entrepreneurship and sustainable development and climate change.”

Several research institutes received renewed funding, including Genome Quebec ($40 million), the National Optics Institute ($25 million) and the Computer Research Institute of Montreal ($25 million). A further $25 million is allocated to nine groups representing industrial research sectors, including PROMPT (microelectronics, photonics and telecommunications) and CQDM (drug discovery). The money is intended for “encouraging and strengthening the technological innovation capacity of businesses” and will support collaborative industrial R&D projects for prototyping, proof-of-concept and field studies.

An additional $190-million funding package supports skills for emerging innovators ($60 million), research capacity and innovation support ($70 million) and technology transfer and marketing ($60 million).

“There’s been a significant investment on many fronts for Quebec’s research and innovation communities. It’s a very positive message,” says Quirion. “The objective is to boost competitiveness both locally and globally … I hope the federal government will follow in the same direction. A strong partnership between the federal government and the provinces is better for the country.”

Artificial Intelligence

The Quebec Budget also backs the emerging artificial intelligence (AI) cluster in Montreal, devoting $100 million towards a “super cluster”. The investment signals Quebec’s participation in the pan-Canadian AI initiative announced in the federal Budget, as well as its intent to apply for part of the $950 million the federal Budget allocated for super cluster funding.

The Montreal AI super cluster will have five objectives — attract and retain talent; maintain a critical mass of high-calibre researchers and incent young researchers to start their careers in Montreal; create a business environment that fosters the development and marketing of scientific advances; help businesses get started and gain access to risk capital; and increase the acceptance and social impact of AI particularly with regard to confidentiality.

“It’s great. This will foster both competition and collaboration between Ontario and Quebec,” says Quirion. “We need to collaborate to be globally competitive.”

Quebec’s forthcoming life sciences strategy also received a healthy $117.5 million in support, starting with $2 million this FY, $15 million for FY17-18 and $25 million for each of the four following years.

Industrial innovation received $170.5 million to assist companies in integrating new technologies into their production process, such as a shift to Industry 4.0 Interconnected systems, centralized data and integrated management. The manufacturing sector will receive $125 million while $45.5 million is devoted to the forestry sector.


The Budget also announced $70 million to implement a new Entrepreneurship Action Plan, which will be released “in the near future”. The funding will flow over five years through the Ministry of the Economy, Science and Innovation to:

  • foster entrepreneurship and develop entrepreneurial skills;
  • stimulate the emergence of more entrepreneurs, particularly among youth, women and immigrants;
  • stimulate technological entrepreneurship and new forms of support, such as incubators and accelerators; encourage networking and mentoring, as well as technical and financial support;
  • ensure access to different funding sources throughout the business development chain; and,
  • streamline the transfer of businesses to future generations.

Additional support of $7.9 million will be allocated to InnoCentre ($4 million), the Startup Quebec Program ($1.2 million) and École des entrepreneurs ($2.7 million).

Support for youth entrepreneurship will receive $10 million. Another $10 million has been set aside for cooperative buyouts of businesses, as well as $3.5 million for the launch and growth of small firms and $3.5 million for social economy hubs.



Québec Research Funds *

($ millions)

2017-18 2018-19 2019-20 2020-21 2021-22 Total
Current funding 174.5 174.5 174.5 174.5 174.5 872.5
Increase in funding 20.0 40.0 40.0 40.0 40.0 180.0
TOTAL 194.5 214.5 214.5 214.5 214.5 1 052.5


 * FRQ-Nature et Technologies (FRQNT) (natural sciences and engineering); FRQ-Santé (FRQS) (health science); FRQ-Société et Culture (FRQSC) (social sciences and humanities, arts and letters)

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