Quebec, North America's life
largest province by area, ranks among the 10 most important health
sciences industrial pools in North America. The low manufacturing and
R&D expenses as compared to any other North American and
European city increase investors' attraction towards Quebec.
Located in the proximity of the US and similarity with its regulatory
system also make Quebec a favorable destination for leading life
The multimedia and aerospace industries in Quebec are world renowned,
however, its life science industry was little known to the outside
world despite having world-class facilities. Things have changed in the
last few years, and now the province's government is poised
to market its vibrant life science industry to the outside world. The
tax credits and incentives offered by the government, and less
formalities to start a new business turned Quebec as a hotbed for
international life science players.
As part of its plan to market Quebec's expertise in science
and technology to other parts of the world especially in the emerging
markets, the province's Ministry of Economic Development,
Innovation and Export Trade is planning to send a trade delegation to
India in the first week of February 2010. The mission will be led by
the Premier of Quebec, Jean Charest. For bilateral collaboration with
India in the field of science and technology and to attract Indian
investors to Quebec, the delegates will visit three Indian
cities-Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore. The Premier will also be
on hand to inaugurate the Quebec Delegation in Mumbai as well as Invest
Quebec's office in Mumbai. These facilities will help promote
trade and investment.
The life science industry in Quebec Province revolves around two
nucleus or bio-clusters, Montreal and Quebec City.
Montreal ranks first in Canada in both the number of research centers
and total funding for university research. Montreal is home to more
than 620 life science companies, including 80 subsidiaries of
international firms, and 150 research organizations.
Montreal InVivo is a non-profit economic development organization based
in Montreal. It aims to ensure the sustainable development, durability
and international reputation of the Life Sciences and Health
Technologies (LSHT) cluster of Montreal.
Michelle Savoie, CEO of Montreal InVivo, says, “Quebec has a
very good talent pool and its world class universities and research
institutes are training the students to meet the needs of the industry.
The Quebec government is always been a good supporter of innovation.
Quebec is also emerging as a place for generic players and
Invest Quebec: promoters of economy
Invest Quebec is a public agency with a highly successful record in
promoting domestic investment, attracting foreign investment and
supporting businesses at every stage of their growth. Invest Quebec
manages attractive tax incentives and, as a financial institution for
business, it offers a full-range of financial options and tools. The
organization creates customized packages to meet the specific needs of
each business, and can help with anything from site selection to
finding local partners.
Invest Quebec assists the companies looking for expansion by providing
consulting services as well as financing assistance. They have recently
expanded its Asian presence by opening offices in Beijing (China), and
Tokyo (Japan), as well as the new office in Mumbai (India).
Breeding ground for innovation
Quebec is also a breeding ground for genomic innovation. Genome Quebec,
situated in Montreal, reinforces the competitiveness of the genomics
innovation system in Quebec through partnerships with key players in
life sciences on national and international levels. This year Genome
Quebec has awarded over $26 million (about Rs 120 crore) to scientists
in a federal genomics research competition on bio-products.
The Biotech City in Laval just a few miles away from Montreal city
provides an excellent atmosphere for companies into life science
research and development. The Biotech City is a research and business
environment that brings over 80 life science companies together.
Quebec City bio-cluster
Founded in 1608, Quebec City is one of the oldest European settlements
in North America and the capital of Quebec Province. The region
features a unique blend of old and new world influences. In Quebec
City, business opportunities are in abundance. Further, the city is
well-known for its highly qualified local talent and a steady economic
growth provides high returns on investments. According to KPMG report,
operating costs for biomedical R&D and clinical trials are
10-15 percent lower in Quebec City region than in the US.
The Quebec City-based economic development agency, POLE Quebec
Chaudieres-Appalaches, provides effective business support services. In
life sciences, it has identified pharmaceutical industry,
biotechnology, medical equipment manufacturing, food processing and
nutraceuticals as the niche areas to optimize economic development.
POLE stimulates wealth creation, encourages entrepreneurship and
develops strategic approaches in the areas of innovation, investment,
marketing and workforce training.
Another Quebec City-based agency called, the CQVB (Centre
Québécois de Valorisation des Biotechnologies) is
a liaison and transfer center, which aims to stimulate and support
technology transfer and innovation within small to medium-sized life
science companies in Quebec. CQVB's sectors of interventions
are: human health, animal health, industrial bio-products, and marine
Hub of international researchers
The historic Laval University is situated in Quebec City takes charge
of the talent supply to the industry. Over the last five years the
university is ranked among Canada's 10 leading research
The Laval University's Infectious Disease Research Center
(IDRC) is mostly focused on host-pathogen interactions with the goal of
developing new strategies and tools to better prevent, diagnose, and
treat infectious diseases for best management of patients. The center
was founded by acclaimed scientist Prof Michel Bergeron. In 2000,
Prof Bergeron and his team unveiled a procedure that improves
on Pasteur's microbial detection method, developed 125 years
ago. The procedure can identify microbial DNA in less than an hour,
compared to 48 hours using micro-biological culture-based methods.
“This represents a major scientific breakthrough since
doctors can rarely afford to wait that long before deciding on a course
of treatment,” says Prof Bergeron.
The world-class research is happening in the university's
cellular neurobiology unit, Robert Giffard Research Center (CRULRG)
with total staffs of 350. Dr Yves De Konink, director of CRULRG is a
pioneer and world leader in the fight against chronic pain. According
to him, due to the unique expertise of Quebec created by its excellent
research institutes, they were able to get a number of international
researchers. “The environment we have created is very
competitive when it comes to attracting the finest research
talent,” says Dr De Konink.
Dr Fernand Labrie is another acclaimed scientist from Quebec City, who
founded world's first molecular endocrinology lab in the
city. Dr Labrie and his team at Laval University Hospital Center
(CHUL), one of Canada's top research facilities with more
than 1,600 people, have identified a drug-based treatment that has
significantly reduced prostate cancer mortality rate. These drugs,
known as LHRH agonists, are used in medical castration and are marketed
in Canada by Astra Zeneca and Abbott. Dr Labrie's team is
working on a similar project for treating breast cancer.
“Since prostate and breast cancer are both hormone-related,
we can apply what we have learned about cancer in men to help
women,” says Dr Labrie.
- The Quebec Province has nine universities and four
medical faculties. These universities have over 13,500 full-time
equivalent researchers in 18 institutions
- Close to 150 products are currently in development in
- All the 10 largest pharmaceutical companies in the
world have established operations in Quebec
- Quebec is home to more than 30 experienced contract
research companies, employing close to 5,000 people
- Nearly half of the Canadian life sciences industries
are concentrated in the Montreal region, that is more than 400 companies
- Montreal ranks eighth in North America for
pharmaceutical jobs, with a pool of 32,000 in the biopharmaceutical
industry and over 13,000 researchers in the public biomedical research
- The costs of doing research or manufacturing in
Quebec are lower than in Europe and the US.
- Quebec has one of the lowest corporate income tax
rates in North America: 30.9 percent to be continuously reduced to 26.9
percent in 2012
The Quebec's Ministry of Economic Development announced
biopharmaceutical strategy during the 16th edition of BioContact 2009
held in Quebec City between October 7-8, 2009. The strategy provides
development support for biotech and biopharmaceutical firms, and the
ministry will provide $122.77 million (about Rs 537.30 crore) to
Highlights of the
- Step up development and spin-offs from research
- Support the development of biotechnology firms and
big biopharma firms
- Maintain a labor force able to meet the
- Promote the world over Quebec's image as a
government agencies in Quebec offer attractive incentives and tax
credits to the companies establishing their shop in the Province.
Listed are a few of such benefits offered by the province.
involved in biotechnology innovation and based in any of the designated
Biotechnology Development Centers (CDBs) across the province (Laval,
Sherbrooke, Saint-Hyacinthe or Levis) may be eligible for a refundable
tax credit on: 30 percent of wages paid, cost of acquiring or renting
eligible goods, and eligible rental fees for specialized facilities.
for investment program
any company is planning an investment or seeking to develop a new
product, the economic development agency, Invest Quebec can provide
various types of loans, a loan guarantee or a non-repayable
contribution. It offers a loan guarantee which may cover up to 70
percent of the net loss or a loan ranging from $250,000 (about Rs 1.15
crore) to $15 million (about Rs 69.50 crore) to improve the working
capital or finance the purchase of equipment.
of an investment project
Quebec provides financial contribution to companies that want to carry
out an investment project in Quebec. The program can cover up to 40
percent of the fees of experts to carry out feasibility studies to a
maximum grant of CDN$100,000 (about Rs 43.78 lakh). Eligible activity
sectors are manufacturing, recycling, business services, industrial
research and development, and scientific services.
business that acquires new manufacturing and processing equipment
before January 1, 2016 can receive this tax credit, which can vary
between five percent and 40 percent depending on the region.
Tax holiday for
researchers employed by a company in Canada that does R&D in
Province benefit from a provincial tax holiday on their salary for five
consecutive years. It is a declining tax holiday computed as follows:
100 percent of employment income the first two years, 75 percent the
third year, 50 percent the fourth year and 25 percent the fifth year.
This measure also applies to other foreign experts such as managers
working in innovative fields.
Innovation brings RoI
The availability of cutting-edge technologies and world renowned
researchers make Quebec City, a breeding ground of innovation. These
factors make the pipeline of the companies affluent and bring returns
for their investment. Other than pharma and biotechnology research,
Quebec City is also home for a bunch of bio-photonics companies and
research institutes. Bio-photonics is a new area where biology and
photonics science combine to make sophisticated equipments for the
medical device industry. The National Optics Institute based in Quebec
City is a forerunner in this field.
Every year, Quebec City hosts a wide range of networking events and
activities geared towards international companies and researchers,
including BIO Contact, Canada's largest life sciences
convention; the Health Industry Forum and the Quebec City Conference
attract more than 350 international venture capital professionals. The
17th edition of BioContact will be held in Quebec City from October
The business atmosphere in the province is safe, encouraging and
favorable for the big pharma/biotech and start-ups as well. Most
important fact is that the companies in the province do not compete
with themselves, they help each other to become more innovative and
productive, and this formulates them capable to take-up the challenges
from the outside world.
Ajeesh Anand in Montreal
and Quebec City, Canada
(The author was in
Canada at the invitation of Quebec Ministry of Economic Development and