MONTREAL, June 14, 2012 /CNW Telbec/ - Considered as the jewel of the Quebec economy, the life sciences industry is undergoing a time of upheaval and is facing many challenges, which must be overcome if it is to maintain its leading position.
In the wake of the Quebec Life Sciences Forum, which was held on June 1st, under the leadership of the Prime Minister and of the ministers of Economic development, innovation and export, Finance and Health and social services, and in the presence of several industry representatives, BIOQuébec addressed the fact that, according to recent statistics, the number of companies in the sector has diminished by 21% since 2005 and that employment has dropped by 48%. Today, the majority of biotechnology companies do not have the necessary resources to maintain their R&D activities for more than one year. If measures are not taken quickly, Quebec could lose the benefits it has fought so hard to secure for more than 30 years now.
Over the last years, the Quebec government has adopted several measures in support of the industry, however they have been insufficient to counter the lack of funding. "Many countries are investing in a big way in their biotechnology sectors. In 2011, the United States saw an increase of 34% of investments in this sector, mainly directed towards start-ups, which demonstrates a return of confidence. If Quebec wishes to remain competitive on a global scale, it must quickly correct this imbalance in terms of investments", declared Gilles R. Gagnon, President of BIOQuébec's Board of Directors.
Beyond the injection of new capital, concrete measures must be implemented in order to build a true Quebec business model; one that is based on partnerships between the government, the industry, the research centres and the Quebec health system. In the past months, BIOQuébec addressed the issue, by conducting a consultation among major stakeholders in order to identify ways to recovery.
"Quebec has managed to differentiate itself on a global scale thanks to bold measures linked to innovation. These efforts have proven successful and Quebec has benefited from significant spin-offs. However, several regions have since imitated our model and now offer more competitive benefits. In this changing environment, we must question our processes", stated Mario Lebrun, General Manager of BIOQuébec.
Actions to be taken for a healthy industry
In this period of major changes, it is urgent to develop a strategy that is focused on building an industry that is competitive, innovative and adapted to our current climate. Within the context of its consultations, BIOQuébec identified the following actions to be taken:
- Support entrepreneurship in the start-up of companies namely by simplifying control mechanisms to speed up the start of clinical studies in Quebec research centres;
- Support the development of "leading" Quebec companies in niche fields that are aligned with governmental priorities;
- Stimulate foreign investments by supporting efforts from Quebec biopharmaceutical companies that are partnered with foreign companies on issues such as intellectual property and market access;
- Ensure access to funding and to programs adapted to companies that are in critical development phases;
- Facilitate the mobility of international R&D specialists within the Quebec labour market in order to foster the recruitment of world-class talent.
"Only a massive mobilization will enable us to develop the required creativity to regain a competitive business environment. We must make all the necessary efforts so that Quebec maintains its position as a global leader in the industry. This Forum, the quality of the participants and the enthusiasm observed following this "kick-off" proves that this issue is of major importance to all members of the industry", concludes Gilles R. Gagnon, President of BIOQuébec's Board of Directors.
BIOQuébec is a biotechnology and life science industry association representing nearly 100 member companies and R&D centres in Quebec. The association works to create a positive business environment which fosters the growth of the life science industry, including access to capital and access to development and marketing partners, workforce development, a regulatory and competitive tax environment and the promotion of its members among various publics both in Quebec and on an international level.
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