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Québec City: A booming hub for technology entrepreneurship

With over 500 high-tech companies that generate nearly $2 billion in sales annually, Québec City boasts a flourishing technology ecosystem that rivals those of cities with twice and even three times its population. In fact, research firm Startup Genome recently release its 2018 report, in which Québec City is featured as one of Canada’s major innovation ecosystems. But how did Québec City become such a high-tech juggernaut?

The secret to Québec City’s high-tech success

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“Québec City’s secret is that it has brought together and developed the most important ingredients to create a thriving technology ecosystem: state-of-the-art research centres, programs to support technology entrepreneurs, access to a wide range of financial and legal services, a qualified and skilled workforce, and close regional cooperation amongst all stakeholders in the business and high-tech sector,” explained Sebastien Tanguay, General Manager at Québec International’s Le Camp, an incubator-accelerator dedicated to tech businesses’ growth and mentorship. 

And the proof of Québec City’s technology leadership is in its key industry numbers. It has Canada’s highest ratio of researchers to population, with more than 5,500 researchers in cutting-edge fields, 400 laboratories, research centres and institutes, 120 R&D companies, 5 universities and 38 colleges, technical institutions and vocational schools.

“This wealth of knowledge and know-how inevitably creates an environment that is ripe for entrepreneurship and innovative start-ups across many different high-tech sectors, such as digital arts, life sciences, optics/photonics, geospatial technology and ICT,” Mr. Tanguay explained. A case in point: the INO, Canada’s National Optics Institute, which has created 35 spinoffs, in the past 30 years alone.

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A long-standing commitment to tech growth

Mr. Tanguay also points to the City of Québec’s dedication to entrepreneurship in the technology sector since the early 2000s. “Back in the day, Québec City quickly become the home to several high-tech success stories, thanks to funding programs from various levels of government, including the City of Québec, as well as support for start-ups setting up shop in revamped neighbourhoods, like the Centre national des nouvelles technologies de Québec (CNNTQ) in Saint-Roch. And success begets success. Many budding and highly creative entrepreneurs were inspired by those initial trail blazers to start their own projects.”

Today, Québec City’s technology sector is continuing to grow at unprecedented rates—and showing no signs of slowing down. When businesses chose Québec City, a hub of knowledge, they enjoy a dynamic environment, supported by research centres, renowned educational institutions and programs dedicated to innovative technologies. Furthermore, all stakeholders are mobilizing concerted efforts to stoke the city’s technology sector even more. Big players in the insurance and financial services industries continue to expand to cater to the needs of the tech entrepreneurs.

“Québec City’s secret is that it has brought together and developed the most important ingredients to create a thriving technology ecosystem: state-of-the-art research centres, programs to support technology entrepreneurs, access to a wide range of financial and legal services, a qualified and skilled workforce, and close regional cooperation amongst all stakeholders in the business and high-tech sector”

Le Camp’s role in Québec City’s technology scene

Le Camp has definitely played an integral part in the tech upswing. It offers technology entrepreneurs a wide range of services to take their start-up projects to a whole new level.

For one, Le Camp is an incubator for small businesses with technology products that have tremendous market potential. Le Camp not only provides office space but also a network of partners and mentors who specialize in accounting, intellectual property, communications, investments, etc.)

Furthermore, Le Camp acts as a start-up accelerator by helping growing technology companies to push the innovation envelope further and take their initial ideas to a prototype, validate market needs, test their business models and more. Specific programs, such as Fast Trac and Propulsion, offer support and resources to find funding and grow their sales.

“We also hold a lot of activities,” Mr. Tanguay pointed out. “We host training sessions, networking events, themed presentations, and Lunch-and-Learn initiatives. The goal is to better equip technology entrepreneurs with the tools they need to compete on the global scene.”

To date, Le Camp has accompanied over 5,000 participants. It has organized 132 activities and events, completed 10 cohorts of its six training and support programs.  

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In addition, Québec International also regularly organizes economic missions abroad to put local technology companies in contact with the righter partners and clients in other parts of the world. On the flip side, Québec International and Le Camp also provide a soft landing for foreign companies that move their businesses to Québec City or set up a local division.

“In just two years, we’ve welcome nine companies from Brazil, France, Belgium and the United States. This is a compelling testament to Québec City’s appeal. For example, from an economic, cultural and lifestyle standpoint, Québec City is a great place for companies from French-speaking countries to penetrate North American markets,” added Mr. Tanguay.

Le Camp’s international footprint also extends to working alongside other entrepreneurship partners, including Canadian Technology Accelerators, and incubators from France, California, New York.

“Québec City Mayor Régis Labeaume has his eye on a pretty impressive goal—to make Québec City the most entrepreneurial city in all of Canada within the next five years. We definitely think that if our ecosystem continues to flourish, we’ll definitely be on the path to achieving that goal,” concluded Mr. Tanguay.

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