In a marketplace that is constantly pressuring us to innovate, PRIMA QUÉBEC links together the entire innovation ecosystem to help support the advanced materials sector.

Mediaplanet: What is PRIMA QUÉBEC’s main role?

Marie-Pierre Ippersiel: PRIMA QUÉBEC is the advanced materials research and innovation hub. Our mission consists of implementing and supporting a collaborative innovation ecosystem conducive to the development of advanced materials for the benefit of companies, research centres, and Québec society.

PRIMA QUÉBEC facilitates the linking and collaboration of the various actors. Let’s not forget that innovation is an interactive phenomenon!

MP: What types of services does PRIMA QUÉBEC offer?

MPI: Appointed for economic development and the support of innovation, we provide funding dedicated to collaborative research. Over the last 15 years, we’ve funded 168 collaborative projects. Our funding amounted to more than $20 million of the total $70 million cost to complete. In addition, PRIMA QUÉBEC uses its network of highly qualified partners to help find additional sources of financing.

Apart from the project funding, we’ve developed two collaborative innovation tools: NovaCentris (allows companies to submit their technological challenges to an extensive network of researchers)  and Infrastructure en Recherche et développement (IRDQ) (facilitates access for companies to state-of-the-art equipment and expertise).

MP: What do you mean by “collaborative innovation”?

MPI: Today, developments in technological innovation are becoming more complex and integrate a variety of multidisciplinary technologies. This makes it difficult for companies, SMEs in particular, to develop an innovation project on their own. Collaborative innovation allows us to mitigate scientific, technological, and financial risks. The search for partners and collaboration between the various players becomes essential for maximizing the chances of successfully developing and marketing innovations. For instance, thanks to our IRDQ tool, we demonstrated that the use of state-of-the-art equipment and expertise in advanced materials from academic labs is crucial to the innovation capacity of SMEs, as they can’t afford to buy this equipment on their own.

MP: Who can benefit from your services?

MPI: As a not-for-profit organization funded by the provincial government, PRIMA QUÉBEC is a key player in Quebec’s innovation ecosystem with an excellent outreach. Not only can startups, SMEs, and large organizations benefit from our funding and expertise, but also the entire innovation ecosystem, including students and academic researchers. For instance, research-industry funded projects will include second- and third-cycle students and post-doctoral research interns and allow them to connect with the industry.

MP: What are advanced materials and how do you help develop that sector?

MPI: Advanced materials cover a broad spectrum of materials, including polymers, high- performance composites, nanomaterials, green plastics, biomaterials, smart textiles, and technologies like additive manufacturing, etc. They are basically any materials with enhanced properties, such as mechanical, optical, chemical, etc. The high investment risk and long-term development required forces our innovation ecosystem to rely on financial support from the government. This is where PRIMA QUÉBEC comes into play, providing funding designed to lessen the strain on the industry.

By constantly refining our understanding of the ecosystem, we are well positioned to represent our partners, so that public policies can propose winning solutions for business development and can support academic research.

MP: What role does the advanced materials sector play in advancing innovation in Canada?

MPI: Advanced materials are identified as breakthrough technologies that will not only reinforce industrial capabilities but have significant economic implications. The potential scope of impact is broad. For example, miniaturization increases the storage and calculation capacity of electronics chips and decreases their energy consumption. Advanced materials can also help build strong, lighter components for vehicles, thus contributing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

MP: Why is it important for Canadians to continue innovating?

MPI: Innovation is vital when it comes to facing the everyday challenges related to globalization. Innovation enables any Canadian organization to maintain a competitive edge, while facing extreme pressure not only to provide more efficient and cost-competitive solutions but also to best manage limited resources. Canada has strong research capabilities, yet as a country, we need to improve on transforming our ideas into marketable products and services.

MP: Do you think there is a relationship between innovation and economic development?

MPI: Innovation — one of the main drivers of economic development — is crucial to the success of companies seeking to improve their competitiveness both in their domestic and international markets. The  development of an economy is especially influenced by the degree of innovation, the allocation of resources for R&D activities, the quality of human capital, and by foreign direct investments stock attracted by a city, a region, or even a country.