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Significant investments in the FRQ over the next five years

A quick note as the summer rolls in, hoping you are enjoying well-deserved holidays in Québec or wherever you may be in the world. For so many of us, the pandemic certainly rekindled our wanderlust!

For nearly two years, Québec’s recent research and innovation strategy, the Stratégie québécoise de recherche et d’investissement en innovation or SQRI2, and the updates to the strategic plans of the Fonds de recherche du Québec (FRQ) have kept us very busy. I would like to thank everyone who contributed to the many consultations led by the FRQ, the Ministère de l'Économie et de l'Innovation (MEI) and the Conseil de l’innovation. Overall, the results are quite convincing, with investments of more than $7.5B in the SQRI2 for 2022–2027 with nearly $1.2B earmarked for the FRQ (including the base appropriations allocated annually). The SQRI2 adds $320M to the FRQ’s base appropriations, in contrast to the 2017–2022 SQRI that granted an additional $180M. I also want to mention that the base appropriations of the FRQ, which had been stagnant for several years, will be progressively increased from $174M in 2021–2022 to $192M in 2026–2027 under the SQRI2.

These additional budgets will enable us to better support talent and new generations of researchers by offering more scholarships every year starting immediately. Indeed, nearly 140 awards were announced on June 2. We will also have the means to increase the funding for our programs dedicated to research clusters and major societal challenges (climate, demographics, new technologies, etc.) and remain focused on promoting local and international cooperation and partnerships. Here, it is important to add that more than 80% of these new budgets will directly fund open and basic research in all the sectors covered by the three FRQ.

A Science et société component is also considered in the funding granted to the FRQ to enhance our science and society research programs on French-language science, open access to scientific publications and open science, the principles of equity, diversity and inclusion and sustainable development, scientific advice to governments and scientific diplomacy and our knowledge of disinformation and its impacts, including those on our democracies.

With regard to open access to scientific publications, the FRQ recently launched their revised open access policy, the Politique de diffusion en libre accès (in French). With a view to fostering more open science, the policy now requires immediate open access to publications (no embargo) and open licenses. These new requirements aim to make science more efficient, strengthen scientific cooperation, improve reproducibility and fight misinformation. The FRQ also seek to make the knowledge generated through public funding accessible to all.

An essential element of the SQRI2 is linked to the innovation cycle: from basic research to innovation and commercialization. I am part of an innovation triumvirate along with Luc Sirois, Chief Innovator of Québec, and Sylvie Pinsonneault, Senior Vice-President, Strategies, Business Solutions and Innovation at Investissement Québec. Mathieu Gervais, Assistant Deputy Minister at the MEI, is our d'Artagnan! By focusing on the concept of a cycle, we are aiming to improve each component with the help of the others to enrich the cycle in its entirety. We will also be pursuing our work to support scientific entrepreneurship and social innovation for more diverse training, in keeping with the recommendations of the report on Québec’s university of the future, the rapport sur l’Université québécoise du futur.

We are also very involved in the MEI’s efforts to create innovation zones. The FRQ were granted additional funding to promote new scientists and facilitate the retention and recruitment of world-class researchers with complementary expertise, including technological and social innovation. One of the goals of the innovation zones is to build stimulating living environments that are accessible to all our communities, so your suggestions are more than welcome!

Have a wonderful summer!

Rémi Quirion
Chief Scientist of Québec