“You have to be able to make researchers and entrepreneurs aware of each other’s work in order to have a good transfer of value,” notes Axelys CEO Paul De Blois. (photo courtesy)
A special innovation. Increasingly close links are being established between Quebec’s public research institutions and private companies so that they can better collaborate. The goal is to take advantage of all the promising innovations.
For example, researchers from Nergica, the Center for Collective Technology Transfer (CCTT) of Cégep de la Gaspésie et des les, have designed a technology that makes storage-equipped solar PV systems more efficient when offered. Dynamic pricing.
“We wanted to maximize operators’ revenues,” explains Sergio Gualtieros, director of the Research and Innovation Project at Nergica. Since sunlight cannot be controlled, batteries must be charged when the sun is shining and thus able to provide electricity when selling prices are high. “We created an algorithm so that this happens automatically,” the engineer adds.
This technology was made possible because Nergica offered its services to Renewable Energy Systems Canada, after receiving a grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada. The Montreal company, which owns solar farms, has been able to reach the researchers at a lower cost than if it had formed its own R&D team.
While it is normal for this CCTT to collaborate with the private sector, this is not the case for the entire public research community. This is why the Axelys organization was created in March 2021 by the Quebec government. Its mission is to bring researchers and entrepreneurs together so that they can work together, share their knowledge and understand each other better.
“You have to be able to make researchers and entrepreneurs aware of each other’s work in order to have a good transfer of value,” notes Axelys CEO Paul De Blois.
Axelys is currently forming a network of ‘Innovation Brokers’. Research Center staff will be responsible for identifying inspirational projects. They will work with development agents, who actually survey companies to find out their needs and connect with researchers. All of them hope that discovery and improvement of their products and performance will emerge.
“In our universities, we need these staff to facilitate these meetings,” says Dean of Laval University and Chair of the Innovation Council of Quebec, Sophie Damour. When you look at the best practices in the world, this is the winning condition. “
If companies want to collaborate with researchers, they still need to understand in which world they are venturing into. Not every project is a matter of research. Sometimes the ethics committee is required to decide on the conduct of a study or even its feasibility, particularly to ensure that the integrity of the participants is respected.
In academia, researchers decide for themselves what to study. “But they want to advance knowledge and contribute to the well-being of individuals, organizations and the planet,” says Eugenie Bruelli, vice president for research, creativity and innovation at Université Laval.
Moreover, in both universities and CCTT teams, entrepreneurs do not exercise control over research. “The company got the answer from the research,” says Sophie Damour. We have protocols in place that ensure the safety and independence of researchers. ”
Likewise, research centers have rules regarding intellectual property. CCTTs are used to transfer ownership rights to companies, while retaining the right to use for research purposes. Patents are rarely applied for. Unlike the universities you prefer when they give way to themselves. They then grant licenses to organizations—sometimes created by their students—who wish to take advantage of them. Laval University, for example, is custodian of 694 patents.
However, in order to patent an idea, researchers must not have made the results of their work public. “No patent can prevent us from marketing [l’innovation] In some cases, “advises Paul de Blois. Venture capitalists are reluctant to finance the development of unprotected technologies. Thus, Axelys innovation brokers will ensure that inventions are submitted to university management before they are disclosed to the public.
Encouraging productive unions
The successful connections between the research community and the business world deserve to be better known, believes Roseann O’Reilly Runte, CEO of the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI).
Remember, among others, the partnership between IVe Etat, in Granby, and Polytechnique Montréal, which made it possible to produce more oxygenated water capable of helping people with respiratory problems. Or the axle designed at the University of Quebec in Rimouski at the request of the Quebec Department of Transportation, which is intended to prevent snowfall from damaging roads.
“We must celebrate these discoveries that can inspire others,” the FCI leader insists.
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