The French-speaking Canadian province of Quebec, home to Canada’s pre-­eminent biotech hub of Montreal, has always been European in orientation. Naturally, it is looking to deepen ties with the mother continent as a means of encouraging mutually beneficial economic gain.

European co-operation

“One of the initiatives we have taken this year is to start discussions with Europe on a co-operation agreement covering goods and services, free trade and labour mobility, as well as research, university education, the environment and culture,” says premier Jean Charest. “Those negotiations were launched between Canada and the EU on May 6, 2009. It will be a very significant step for us and this will be a new type of agreement – a new-generation agreement.”

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Bio boost

The agreement will touch in some ways on the life-sciences sector, given that it includes research and education, but the premier highlights the province’s more tangible and immediate boosts for bio as well. What fledging companies need most, of course, is money.

A good outlook

“The economy has been turned upside down and there continues to be a lot of mergers and acquisitions, but we still have five of the six research centres in Canada in Montreal and half of the industry is in Quebec – the outlook is good. However, we have to continue to adjust and we are doing that with, in particular, more money available for venture capital funding,” says Mr Charest.

“There is C$825m-worth of investment funds for VCs – it is a fund of funds, which is probably one of the biggest in North America. That just came out of the gate along with an extra C$125m for start-ups, so we are very much focused on continuing to make it a big part of our economy,” he adds.