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Josée Fortin, Executive Director of Sherbrooke Innopole

18 June 2020

Sherbrooke Innopole’s Annual Report – Sherbrooke’s Industrial Sector Thriving in 2019

PRESS RELEASEThe growth of Sherbrooke’s industrial and high-value-added services sectors continued to thrive in 2019, with investments of over $416M—a ten-year high—and the creation of 513 jobs and 15 companies in key sectors, according to Sherbrooke Innopole’s annual report unveiled on June 18, 2020.

The economic development agency also experienced a bustling year with major projects and support provided to businesses, through the creation of the Espace-TI coworking space, the development of key partnerships for technological businesses, as well as engaging initiatives in human resources and mentoring, and the achievement of numerous support measures with start-up, growing, or newly established businesses in Sherbrooke.

Sherbrooke Innopole also used its 2019 annual report to deliver an assessment of the key-sector-based economic development strategy implemented 10 years ago when it started its operations in 2009.

2019 marks a year and a decade of significant achievements for Sherbrooke Innopole and to a greater extent the Sherbrooke economy, which owes its current momentum to its thirst for innovation, and strong entrepreneurial vitality. The business environment and synergies formed by all of the stakeholders involved following the economic summit in 2007 are instilling confidence and dynamism in our entrepreneurs. This has been demonstrated with the unprecedented investments of 2019, after two more record years in 2017 and 2018,” emphasized Sherbrooke Innopole’s Board of Directors President, Alexandre Nault.

Sherbrooke Innopole results

Sherbrooke Innopole submitted an annual report in line with its 2018-2020 strategic plan, which consists of five broad orientations: Workforce, Expertise, Funding, Liaison, and Business Services.

Specifically in 2019, Sherbrooke Innopole’s team of professionals initiated or collaborated on 263 growth-generating projects to develop an environment conducive to growth for Sherbrooke companies, with 147 completed over the year.

In relation to Workforce, a co-development formula was established, allowing participating businesses to discuss their challenges in relation to human resources and to share potential solutions. Several successful projects initiated in 2018 have been replicated, including: An SME space (Espace PME) reserved for Sherbrooke industrialists during the Université de Sherbrooke’s Engineering and Computer Science Career Fair, and the 2nd Salon virtuel des métiers technologiques (virtual trade technology show), with financial contribution from Services Québec and Fonds d’appui au rayonnement des régions. The team has also increased joint initiatives and partnerships to continue to equip businesses faced with a labour shortage. The mandate of the project Estrie, A New Home, primarily intended for international students, has been expanded to all students of the region.

As a pillar of the sector-based economic development strategy, the Expertise orientation refers to the sectoral knowledge related to the five key sectors as well as the partnerships established at the local, regional, and international levels. In 2019, some of these included: 16 sector intelligence missions—8 international, 98 activities, 69 projects with partners specialized in exports, innovation/digitalization, market intelligence, and intellectual property; 20 business projects in collaboration with Espace-inc, Espace LABz, and ACET-National Bank; 23 start-up projects managed by the front-line Entrepreneur Hub service, including eight in key sectors; and 52 dyads active in mentoring, with 18 being new.

A new support program to break into the North America market has also been established in collaboration with the private entrepreneurial firm LEDEN, for foreign companies wanting to explore the North American market, and conversely for Sherbrooke businesses targeting Europe. This bilateral agreement, which promotes Sherbrooke’s attractiveness and reach, stems from another financial and strategic partnership with Capitall Investissements, a French entrepreneur fund striving to accelerate start-up and SME development abroad. Sherbrooke Innopole made its first joint investment with this fund in a Sherbrooke technology business in 2019.

In relation to Funding, over $1.4M was invested in 11 start-up, pre-marketing, innovation, and growth projects of Sherbrooke companies channelled from one of the six Sherbrooke Innopole funds, producing spinoffs reaching $20M and creating or consolidating over 200 jobs. Every dollar invested generated $13.77 in local investment.

As part of the Liaison orientation—in reference to the role of Sherbrooke Innopole with municipal authorities in industrial localization and development projects—highlights include the inauguration of Espace-TI, a coworking space already half full with 4 tenants, all businesses newly established in Sherbrooke, including two market leaders in artificial intelligence and quantum computing.

“This enthusiasm is evidence of its relevance in Sherbrooke’s IT ecosystem, which benefits from competitively priced work spaces adapted to the reality of information technologies and a meeting location,” explained Sherbrooke Innopole Director General, Josée Fortin. “It is also further confirmation that our team is in tune with the community’s needs and is actively trying to fulfil them, just as we have done in the past with the multi-tenant science centre Espace LABz. Less than three years after launching, it is at 90% occupancy, driving the need to hire a resource dedicated to infrastructure projects to plan phase 2 at Espace LABz.”

The Synergie Estrie regional circular economy project was implemented among all of Estrie’s RCMs, a little over a year from its launch with the Les Sources RCM. Thus, since 2018 in Sherbrooke specifically, 20 synergies have been established primarily among industry companies and 93 organizations have benefited from support in their efforts.

Additionally, Sherbrooke Innopole’s location services worked on 64 relocation or settlement projects, with 33 completed in 2019 including nine industrial lots sold, for expected investments extending beyond $27M and 186 jobs created. The team also contributed to opening Antonio-Cameron St., enabling the development of six new lots in the Regional Industrial Park, and led the development of a revamped, optimized platform for the database of office spaces/buildings/lots, which will be online in the coming weeks.

In relation to the Business Services orientation, Sherbrooke Innopole’s team conducted 647 interventions with Sherbrooke companies to support them in their start-up, settlement, and growth projects. Of these, 411 were completed in 2019, generating investments of $81M and resulting in the creation or consolidation of 484 jobs.

“There were a particularly high number of interventions with start-up businesses in 2019, generating considerable spinoffs of $35.5M in investments and 192 jobs created,” noted Josée Fortin. “These data reflect growing excitement on Sherbrooke’s entrepreneurial scene, particularly in terms of technology entrepreneurship, with several projects originating from our very own higher education institutions. Additionally, it demonstrates Sherbrooke’s attractiveness in terms of settlement, with an increase in investments and jobs resulting from our interventions in comparison to 2018.”

Sherbrooke Innopole has also contributed to enhancing the reputation and attractiveness of Sherbrooke and its companies through its website—over 350 news articles, blogs, and events published—and its social media platforms, with 2536 publications across 17 social networking accounts reaching over 25 000 subscribers and followers, including the Flash INNOV newsletter.

Profile of the industrial/high-value-added services sector

According to the annual survey conducted by Sherbrooke Innopole with businesses from Sherbrooke’s industrial and high-value-added services sector, the five key sectors—Advanced Manufacturing, Cleantech, Information and Communication Technologies, Life Sciences, and Micro-Nanotechnologies—account for 20 444 jobs across 679 companies. This reflects a net gain of 15 companies and 513 jobs.

The Information Technologies sector was particularly dynamic in 2019, creating the vast majority of companies and jobs,” specified Alexandre Nault. “Globally, creating a half thousand jobs in the five key sectors is also worth noting in the context of a labour shortage that remained ever persisting in 2019, following a year just as phenomenal in this regard with a boost of 1128 jobs.”

Additionally, almost 60% of key sector companies (404 out of 679) invested over $416M in optimization, innovation, and expansion projects—the highest amount in the last decade.

“Major investments at Kruger Products—a portion of which is accounted for in 2019—tip the Land and Building scale to 53%. Setting aside this investment for further detailed analysis, Sherbrooke’s industrial and technology companies have heavily invested this year, primarily in innovation (Research and Development) and productivity (Machinery and Equipment), in amounts in line with past years,” explained Josée Fortin.

2010-2019 record of accomplishments

As 2019 marked 10 years of Sherbrooke Innopole, the organization used its annual activity report to present the evolution of Sherbrooke’s industrial and high-value-added services sector and to highlight its major achievements.

From 2010 to 2019, the five key sectors have recorded:

  • A net gain of 184 companies;
  • A net creation of 7314 jobs;
  • Investments of over $1.8B in machinery, equipment, land, buildings, and R&D.

The overall number of jobs and companies in the five key sectors has been consistently increasing since 2010, now consisting of 495 companies employing 13 130 workers.

“These data demonstrate that, at every level, ingenuity, dynamism, resilience, and determination drive our entrepreneurs, and simultaneously prove their confidence in the Sherbrooke economy, which has been reinvented and enhanced from the moment the innovation shift officially began in 2009 and took root. Today, our ability to collectively innovate and collaborate as well as the dynamism of our economy before the COVID-19 pandemic give us an advantage in recovery,” declared Alexandre Nault.

“There are many challenges,” admitted Sherbrooke Innopole’s Director General, “The digital transformation of businesses comes to mind, and it was brought to the forefront during the crisis and it needs to be accelerated. True to its name, Sherbrooke Innopole will continue to innovate in both practices and initiatives to effectively support our entrepreneurs, in collaboration with driven community stakeholders.

The Sherbrooke Innopole team also conducts an average of 650 interventions each year with companies in the five key sectors for their start-up, implantation, growth, consolidation, and succession projects in Sherbrooke.

Over the years, the economic development organization has also established several initiatives and spinoff‑generating partnerships for companies and, to a wider extent, the Sherbrooke business environment:

  • Development of a comprehensive financing offer with funding provided from start-up to growth, investing over $12M since 2010 and generating more than $385M in spinoffs;
  • Notable contribution to Sherbrooke’s entrepreneurial dynamism, including two major promotional campaigns on entrepreneurship, their involvement in creating ACET-National Bank, and more recently optimizing the front-line Entrepreneur Hub service;
  • Creation of and involvement in major infrastructure projects, such as the accelerator/incubator Espace-inc, the multi-tenant science centre Espace LABz—where tenant companies have created 30 jobs since 2017—and the Espace-TI coworking space;
  • Development of industrial parks/zones, including the extension of the Regional Industrial Park and the sale of 64 lots since 2010;
  • Creation of and collaboration on numerous projects, trainings, and workshops designed to mitigate labour shortage impacts, including three editions of the industry open house (Portes ouvertes sur l’industrie), the student retention project Estrie, A New Home, etc.;
  • Creation of programs adapted to entrepreneurs’ marketing, export, or settlement needs, offering $225 000 in funding in the last three years;
  • Coordination of a highly active mentoring program, with 223 entrepreneurs mentored and 79 mentors since 2011 and the regional GoMentor portal in partnership with the Dobson-Lagassé Entrepreneurship Centre;
  • Organization of and collaboration on over 400 activities related to information, development, recruitment, networking, etc. for the business community and researchers from here and abroad;
  • Strong advances in sustainable development, such as the Synergie Estrie circular economy project in collaboration with the Les Sources RCM;
  • Communications shift to the Web 2.0 from 2010, increasing the reach and reputation of Sherbrooke and its companies.

“Innovation, collaboration among the various community stakeholders: This is what allows Sherbrooke to remain competitive and attractive to business people and the general public alike. For the last 10 years, Sherbrooke Innopole has supported our city through its successful efforts. Together, we make an efficient, complementary team,” affirmed Sherbrooke Mayor, Steve Lussier.

Changes in the Board of Directors

During Sherbrooke Innopole’s annual general meeting held last April, Alexandre Nault, Director of Operations at The Color Group, was reelected as President of the Board of Directors, while Serge Auray, Founder and President of Laboratoire M2, and Manon Tremblay, President of Plastimum, were confirmed as vice-presidents, and Francine Turmel, Professor at Bishop’s University’s Williams School of Business, as treasurer. Marie-France Bélanger, Director General of the Cégep de Sherbrooke, was elected as Secretary.

The Board of Directors also has a new observer in Philippe Cadieux, Director of the Bureau de coordination du développement économique (economic development coordination office) at the Ville de Sherbrooke, replacing Assistant Director General of Development and Partnerships at the Ville de Sherbrooke, Marie-France Delage.

To view the 2019 annual report: https://bit.ly/RapportActSI2019 (French)

 

About Sherbrooke Innopole

Sherbrooke Innopole is Sherbrooke’s economic development arm whose mission is to accelerate the development of businesses in five key sectors – Industrial and Advanced Manufacturing, Clean Technologies, Information Technologies, Life Sciences and Micro-nanotechnologies – and to work to make Sherbrooke an attractive and innovative business environment.

Source: Sherbrooke Innopole

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