Canadian Trade Commissioner Service - Quebec and Nunavut

Sector Snapshots


The aerospace sector is one of the most important manufacturing sectors in Quebec. With $10.9 billion of sales and 39,500 jobs (2010), Quebec’s aerospace sector represents 55% of Canada’s total aerospace production. Quebec exports over 80% of its production and ranks 6th worldwide in terms of aerospace sales. With 98% of Quebec’s aerospace activities concentrated in Greater Montreal, the region is the third largest aerospace cluster in the world, after Seattle and Toulouse. With over $660 million invested annually in research and development (R&D), Quebec’s aerospace industry represents 70% of total R&D expenditures in the country (2010). In addition to centres of excellence, there are seven universities active in aerospace research and ten research centres in Quebec.

Automotive and Transportation

Although Quebec has no major automobile manufacturer, the transportation equipment industry is an important contributor to the economy. The industry, consisting of approximately 1,000 companies, employs close to 40,000 people, generates revenues of over $10 billion and accounts for another 36,000 indirect jobs. It is characterized by the presence of world class original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and by a large number of SME suppliers (Tier 1, 2 and 3) active in Canada and internationally. Some SMEs in Quebec have developed their own line of limited series vehicles. Furthermore, Quebec companies are leading suppliers of specialized parts and systems manufacturing of new generation hybrid and electric vehicles. These companies are active in areas of lightweight materials, fuel systems, electric motors and batteries. Innovation is a key success factor for the transportation sector and Quebec is well positioned with more than 30 university or college research centres active in fields, such as lightweight materials, new electric powertrain systems, batteries, alternative fuels, acoustics and intelligent systems.



In Quebec, the most important sub-sectors are waste management and water treatment. The consulting engineering sector stands out for its environmental expertise. Quebec is recognized internationally for providing high-end, custom-made, innovative products. The environment industry, although solidly anchored in Quebec, must absolutely move towards the international markets in order to grow. Quebec ranks second among Canadian provinces in terms of the number of companies with revenues from environmental technologies or services. Quebec companies expect sales to increase modestly in the United States and are becoming more interested in emerging markets.

Renewable energies

The development of Quebec’s renewable energy capacity is closely related to the expansion of industries in its local market. The most striking example is certainly Quebec’s strength in hydroelectricity, which resulted in the creation of product and services companies, especially consulting engineering expertise, which is now internationally recognized, and has attracted large international integrators and manufacturers. Calls for tender in the wind power industry are part of this same economic expansion, i.e., the development of local expertise to favour the expansion of new exporters. Moreover, Quebec has leaders in various types of bioenergy technologies, such as co-generation, biomethanization and biofuels. Finally, with its commitment to join the Western Climate Initiative (WCI), Quebec has also positioned itself as a the North American leader for the carbon market.

Defence and Security

The Quebec industry is made up of twenty defence leaders, mostly American and some European subsidiaries. There are then close to 200 Quebec-owned Tier 2 and 3 companies which specialize in contracting, exports or specialized projects abroad. Many of them have innovative applications for specific technologies that are generating a lot of interest from major foreign trade buyers. Quebec’s areas of excellence include fibre optics, image processing (3D), advanced radar and radiofrequency military communications systems, instrumentation and remote sensing, biometric systems, energetic and aerodynamic materials, information security, detection, etc. France, the United Kingdom, India, Brazil and Germany are the markets of interest, but the United States is the market with the greatest possibilities.

Information and Communications Technologies (ICT)


The development of Quebec’s telecommunications industry depends on the vitality and great export potential of companies, as well as the advanced nature of ongoing R&D projects. This sector alone represents nearly 50% of the exports for the entire information and telecommunications industry in Quebec. Most telecommunications companies are located in the Montreal region. They benefit from the presence of a number of institutions of higher education, and first-rate research and development associations and organizations. The industry is divided into two main sectors: services and manufacturing. The telecommunication services industry has seen increased activity over the past few years, due to the emergence of new technologies. These technologies have enabled the massive use of teleconferencing, online gaming, online transactions, video clips, etc. These applications have become possible because of the evolution of Internet protocol (IP) technologies which require more and more broadband Internet connections.

Digital media

The Quebec video game industry includes the development studios of large international publishers, independent developers, the suppliers of specialized services, technological tool designers and independent artists. It is mainly talent and imagination combined with a rich and varied cultural environment that make Quebec and Montreal a meeting place for the arts, technologies and digital media. Quebec has built a solid reputation and attracts international publishers who open studios and allocate major contracts to independent companies in Quebec. Quebec companies are known for their success internationally in a wide range of titles for main platforms (consoles and PC) and alternative platforms (online, wireless, interactive television, lottery and public transit). Thereby, they contribute to the expansion of new segments of the market with the development of mobile games (cellular phones) and serious games. The Quebec video game industry now has nearly 90 companies, mostly concentrated in Montreal, although a number of dynamic new companies have popped up in Quebec City. At last, Quebec’s geographic and cultural proximity to the United States and Europe accounts for a distinctive benefit in regards to contracts procurement.

Infrastructure, Building Products and related services

The building products sector ranks second in Canada in terms of size and GDP, and represents a substantial source of economic activity in Quebec. The building products industry in Quebec consists mostly of a large number of small-and-medium-sized enterprises. Those that export do so, mainly toward American market, although Quebec products can be found all around the world. In 2008, fluctuations in the Canadian dollar and the price of oil - which represents up to 20% of the cost for some manufactured products - considerably reduced, in fact, the financial flexibility of Quebec building products companies. We should add to these, the impact of the economic recession and the brutal slowdown in housing starts in the United States. Finally, the arrival of new competitors in the global market (mainly from China) has put additional pressure. Even if the United States remains the main market, exporters should first diversify their product offerings by diversifying, for example, with sustainable building products, and then look further into non-traditional markets.

Life Sciences

Medical Technology

Because the manufacture of medical devices and technologies involves various biomedical and engineering science applications, the Quebec industry benefits from its high level of expertise in related industries, among which biotechnology, optics and photonics, advanced materials, microelectronics, telecommunications, software and computers. The niche areas of expertise in Quebec’s medical technologies industry are gathered in five main centres of excellence:

  1. Assistive Devices and Supports
  2. Healthcare IT
  3. Medical Imaging
  4. Implants and Biomaterials
  5. Diagnostic and Therapeutic Equipment

There are nearly 35 foreign subsidiaries in this sector, a relatively low number, yet with 25% of total employment.


This sector (more than 200 companies and institutions) includes more specifically companies involved in the drug development process (biotechnologies, related services and technological platforms, contractual research, contract manufacturing, equipment and sub-products). In addition, several companies in Quebec represent nutraceuticals and natural health products. Québec remains very well positioned on the life science world mapping in its capabilities to innovate, to sell abroad and to attract investments, particularly in the following domains:

The pharmaceutical sector trends are to accomplish less in-house, which may bring both issues and opportunities for SMEs in terms of partnering, including alternatives to traditional financing. Another well-known issue: the patent cliff which brings drastic drops in revenues and market share for the original drugs. At the same time, pharmaceutical companies are seeking collaborations with university researchers and small-and-medium-size companies. As these are worldwide trends, TCS puts its network to contribution to support Canadian companies to position themselves in this evolving mapping.

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