Message from the scientific director

January 19th, 2017

First and foremost, I would like to wish you and your family much happiness in 2017. I sincerely hope that the year will bring satisfaction and success in your work and, most of all, be filled with joy and health.

This newsletter will inform you that my mandate as the scientific director of the Fonds de recherche du Québec – Nature et technologies (FRQNT) has been renewed and I am taking this opportunity to relate the key initiatives I undertook in the past five years.

Much of my work was focused on strengthening the support for young scientists. In response to ministerial requests and echoing the FRQNT's 2014–2017 strategic plan, we created new programs to foster introductory researcher training early on in academia, at the college and university undergraduate levels. We also reinforced the mobility of Québec students and worked to attract the best foreign students, specifically through international internships for student-members of strategic clusters and Globalink summer internship scholarships for foreign students in partnership with Mitacs.

Of the actions that truly stand out for me is my sustained commitment to better attract, support and retain women in science. I therefore oversaw the implementation of new work-life balance measures for grant holders and researchers and contributed to several initiatives to encourage the participation of women in natural sciences and engineering (NSE) careers. More specifically, in collaboration with the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), I participated in the organization of the Gender Summit international conference—a Canadian first held in Montréal in November 2017. I also supported the adherence of the Fonds de recherche du Québec and our ministry to the UNESCO SAGA project, which aims to improve practices to increase the number of women in science.

During my mandate, I sought to foster the development of college research by relaxing the rules of research programs aimed at college and college centres for technology transfer (CCTTs) and creating assistantship support, scholarships and scholarship supplements for college students under all FRQNT programs. 

My mandate was also marked by considerable budgetary fluctuations that impacted some of our major proposals, including the Team Research and Strategic Clusters programs. Still, we received new grants through ministerial partnerships that enabled the NSE research community to conduct research projects on sustainable mineral exploration, aluminium production and processing, northern agriculture and other themes. In addition, while the FRQNT was not involved in any international partnerships five years ago, the agency now offers several international programs for NSE researchers through ERA-NET and initiatives with China, Flanders, Cuba, Wallonia, Scandinavia, Bavaria and Israel.

These achievements were made possible thanks to the efforts invested by a fantastic team of members from the FRQNT and the FRQ's shared services. These individuals—some of which have been with the Fonds for 35 years, at the Fonds FCAR, then the FQRNT and now the FRQNT—are rarely recognized. This remarkable group and the synergy that has been created under the FRQ banner in recent years are a large part of the reasons why I agreed to renew my mandate.

Rest assured that in 2017 and the years to come, along with Chief Scientist Rémi Quirion, I will pursue my efforts to promote excellence in NSE research to all levels of government and organizations in an effort to gain increased and sustained funding to continue to ensure that Québec excels in these leading-edge sectors.