The recently-released 2017-2027 Quebec Life Sciences Strategy is positioning the province to be in the top five North American life sciences clusters within a decade.
The strategy aims to leverage its scientific expertise, particularly in precision medicine and big data, by attracting $4 billion in private investment to boost industry employment and increase the number of Quebec-based firms and their contribution to provincial GDP.
Entitled Innovation Takes Life, the new strategy comes seven years after the province of Ontario launched its own, which is beginning to pay off with major new investments from capital powerhouses such as BlueRock Therapeutics. Ontario and Quebec collaborate in the life sciences space, notably with the creation in 2011 of the Ontario-Quebec Life Sciences Corridor which represents one of the largest bioclusters in the world.
The whole-of-government strategy — the broad strokes of which were unveiled in last month’s Quebec Budget — comes with $205 million in new and existing money over five years to implement its four core planks: research and innovation ($95.1 million); company creation and growth ($49 million); private investment attraction ($32.9 million); and integrating innovation into the health and social services network ($28 million). Of the $205 million, $151.3 million was announced in Budget 2017 while Budget 2016 provided $33.8 million.
With the advent of a lower-cost R&D model for drug development featuring increased collaboration between multinationals and smaller research-based firms, new opportunities are emerging that the strategy intends to exploit. That entails a shift in the sector from a generalist to a multi-specialist approach that can compete more effectively in the global marketplace.
Life sciences is one of the province’s key knowledge-based industry sectors accounting for $5.6 billion in provincial GDP in 2014. In 2016, it supported nearly 31,000 industrial jobs at 630 companies and almost as many in public research centres and related service companies.
Fonds de Solidarité FTQ — Canada’s oldest and most successful labour-sponsored venture capital fund with $12.2 billion in net assets — has been a significant supporter of the strategy throughout its formation. It announced its intent to be a strategic and financial partner during the implementation phase, including helping to foster the emergence of and growth of life sciences companies. FTQ will also leverage its international partner network which it views as particularly opportune given the political turmoil creating unease among knowledge workers in Europe and the U.S.