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Towards a third Québec research and innovation strategy

I hope that your summer is both exciting and relaxing! At the Fonds de recherche, several summer activities are going on. Our three scientific directors, Renaldo Battista (Fonds Santé), Normand Labrie (Fonds Société et culture) and Maryse Lassonde (Fonds Nature et technologies), with the support of their respective teams and boards of directors, must set out their 2013-2016 strategic plans by next spring. While many consultations and much work is in store, the initiative is an excellent opportunity for each Fonds to renew its mission and objectives within the context of the recent creation of the Fonds de recherche du Québec banner and the position of chief scientist. We welcome your comments and suggestions, since we must ensure that the new plans truly meet the expectations of our community of researchers, students and partners. You will therefore be invited to take part in a Fonds de recherche Web consultation in August.

Towards a third Québec Research and Innovation Strategy

At the same time, the development of the next Québec Research and Innovation Strategy (QRIS) recently got underway with the appointment by Québec Economic Development Minister Sam Hamad of the Comité stratégique en science et innovation, of which I am a member. The QRIS presents the government’s strategic vision for research development in Québec and plays a decisive role in determining funding. Until the end of summer, we will be focusing every effort on the strategy, which must be defined by December 2012. In fact, the Acfas and ADRIQ have been mandated by the MDEIE to gather proposals from community members, so please send your comments and suggestions to one of the associations. Time is of the essence, and your opinion is very important.

Moreover, along with some of you, I was very actively involved in the organization of the Forum québécois des sciences de la vie, which was held on June 1 and presided by Premier Jean Charest. Economic Development Minister Sam Hamad, Finance Minister Raymond Bachand and Health and Social Services Minister Yves Bolduc were also on hand…a first! It was a highly productive day, and, at the end of the meeting, I presented a brief summary of Forum recommendations. Colleagues from the three government departments and I are currently working to develop an action plan that will fit into the third QRIS. Expectations are high, but I am convinced that the Forum will yield tangible impacts in health research and innovation in the next year.

Update on the intersectoral projects

So many of you responded to our call for intersectoral projects. We received numerous proposals (see the list of projects), even though the call was a little different from our “regular” ones.

With regards to the proposals for northern research development, we obtained funding under the most recent provincial budget to create a cluster and research chair in the field. The groups that submitted proposals will soon be invited to take part in a meeting on September 6 to finalize the objectives of the two initiatives. Then, there will be a call for intersectoral proposals by the Fonds Nature et Technologies in partnership with the two other Fonds and government departments.

A similar strategy will be implemented to map out the intersectoral research project on aging, since several especially innovative programs were submitted as part of our call for proposals and at the Forum on June 1st. A workshop will be held in the fall, and the call will take place in 2013. With regards to the other health research sectors, several aspects should be included in the vast patient-focused research project that is currently being developed in partnership with the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the MSSS and which is expected to be launched early next year.

Based on the intersectoral project proposals we have received, two other major forums are planned in the upcoming months: one on sustainable development and the environment and another on arts and culture. Further details will be released very soon. An inter-Fonds committee is currently setting out the objectives of these meetings.

Finally, several proposals did not directly target research initiatives but were rather focused on research support through large platforms and infrastructures. An inter-Fonds committee including MDEIE representatives was therefore assembled to develop a competitive and long-term funding strategy for these installations. We hope to be able to launch a call for projects in 2013, but we will, of course, require the participation of several partners, including the federal government and universities.

Also, this fall, we will be hosting chief scientists from around the world at a first meeting in Montréal on October 21 to 23. There has already been significant interest in the initiative (as reported in Nature), which will enable Québec to position itself as a leader in the development of new approaches in research and innovation.

Better support for new generations of researchers

Young researchers are very important, and our goal is to train experts who possess varied skill sets and will remain competitive on the labour market. I therefore asked Normand Labrie, the scientific director of the Fonds Société et Culture, to organize a forum on graduate student training to be held on November 26 and 27 in partnership with the Conseil supérieur de l’éducation, the Ministère de l’Éducation, du Loisir et du Sport and others. A preliminary program should be available soon. We welcome your comments and suggestions.

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of meeting the first nine winners of the Étudiants-chercheurs étoiles awards, who were all quite impressive! They want to help renew research training and contribute to the efforts to make science and research more accessible to all members of society. It goes without saying that we will be consulting them!

I wish you a wonderful summer and a great start to the new academic year.

Rémi Quirion, O.C., C.Q., PhD, FRSC

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