It is increasingly difficult to stand out in business without innovating. Lagging behind other major Canadian provinces, Quebec must step on the accelerator, according to experts who believe that innovation is “not a choice, but an obligation”.

At the end of January, a Léger survey conducted on behalf of the Conseil de l’innovation du Québec revealed that 51% of Quebec companies had carried out an innovation project between February 2021 and February 20221. This proportion climbs to 56% for the Ontario and 60% for British Columbia, the other two most populous provinces in Canada.

” It is not good news. We have a lot of work to do,” said Pascal Monette, President and CEO of the Association for the Development of Research and Innovation in Quebec (ADRIQ), in an interview. This delay also affects marketing and production, he adds.

“It’s a significant gap, but there are things that can change in a few years. »

Knowing that innovation is an important engine of growth in business, how can an SME get started? There are several options. Surrounding yourself with competent people is key.

First, the ADRIQ offers up to 125 hours of multidisciplinary support to companies with which it is in communication through its network of contacts or the Industrial Research Assistance Program (PARI) of the Conseil National Research Center of Canada (NRC). This training focuses more on management.

As for applied research, you can knock on the door of a College Center for Technology Transfer (CCTT). There are 39 in Quebec. The province’s nine Industrial Research Sector Groups (RSRIs) are also a good option for linking universities to industry needs. Both types of organizations can provide advice, knowledge and funding.

Érick Villeneuve is president of APF Villeneuve, an industrial metal parts machining company located in Crabtree, in Lanaudière. He says he always wanted to “be one step ahead of others”.

In 2017, Mr. Villeneuve went to visit the Peugeot car factory in France to learn about connecting the machines. It is a technique providing real-time information that allows you to optimize your production chain.

As soon as he returned, he acquired software to connect his own. After a year and a half of work and with $200,000 in funding, he managed to connect 20 machines, which he sees as a way to “do more with the same team”.

In 2018, it also started automating some tasks through robots. Its employees, recalcitrant at first, were quickly convinced by their efficiency.

It may seem like a lot of money, he admits. But with 33 employees, his robots and connected machines, Érick Villeneuve is now able to produce as if he had 45 or 50.

He believes that more entrepreneurs should innovate through automation, and that they are “too entrenched in old-fashioned ways that have worked all along.”

For him, the desire to innovate requires open-mindedness, interest and curiosity.

“To start innovating, you have to force a small project to experience success. If you have something that is repetitive and annoying your employees, tell yourself one thing: it’s probably automatable. Start with this as your first project. Afterwards, it will happen on its own,” says Érick Villeneuve, of APF Villeneuve.