INRS: unique collaborations | The duty

This text is part of the special notebook 55 years of INRS

In 2021, the National Institute of Scientific Research (INRS) launched five joint research units (UMR) in partnership with five universities, on promising and strategic themes for Quebec. A highly sought-after model of interdisciplinary collaboration, which could become a reality with other partners.

“One of the particularities of the UMRs is that each host university chose the theme in line with the expertise that we already had at INRS. They are directed towards current or future societal issues,” explains Gabriel Joyal, interim deputy scientific director at INRS. The first five joint research units focus on materials and technologies for the energy transition with the Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières (UQTR), cybersecurity with the Université du Québec en Outaouais (UQO), digital transformation in support for regional development with the University of Quebec at Rimouski (UQAR), sustainable health with the University of Quebec at Chicoutimi (UQAC) and indigenous studies with the University of Quebec in Abitibi-Témiscamingue (UQAT).

“Our current UMRs are with universities, but this model could also apply to other types of partners, such as a CEGEP or an industrial partner for example,” specifies Isabelle Delisle, scientific director and interim head of faculty affairs at INRS. Funding of $15 million granted by the Quebec government allowed INRS to create 15 professorships, or 3 per UMR. They joined the teams of the host universities as part of these high-level mixed research and innovation hubs, unique in the province.

Concentrate expertise

Another particularity of the UMRs is that researchers from the two partner establishments work together in the same place in the host university. “This creates opportunities for proximity that are structuring. Some researchers tell us that without the UMR, they would not have been exposed to other researchers and other disciplines to develop new research themes, within the framework of projects which might not have seen the day otherwise,” underlines Gabriel Joyal. This interdisciplinary approach to accelerating research capacity is at the heart of the INRS approach, which brings together researchers from various disciplines in its research centers.

Industrial, government or community partners also take part in the projects. “As part of our UMR on cybersecurity with UQO for example, we have partnerships with companies and college technology transfer centers. This allows us to work, among other things, on cybersecurity training and to analyze the way in which a company or establishment reacts to a cyberattack as well as the administrative and psychological impacts after it,” explains Mr. Joyal.

A new innovation hub in Haut-Richelieu

Last September, INRS and NexDev | Haut-Richelieu Economic Development met with nearly 50 researchers to draw the outlines of a new UMR dedicated to security. “The MRC du Haut-Richelieu contacted us to integrate us into its project to establish an innovation zone in the fields of public, civil and defense security for the region. This UMR would be a very mixed unit with industrial, college and university partners to stimulate research in these areas and train highly qualified people,” indicates Isabelle Delisle. The region’s candidacy as an innovation zone is in the hands of the Ministry of Economy, Innovation and Energy. “We are already networking between researchers to develop projects that could serve as a basis for starting the UMR,” specifies the interim scientific director.

With the UMRs, INRS and its partners generate “research capacity on a chosen theme, under conditions that promote collaboration and interdisciplinarity. These are drivers of innovation which could have repercussions for our partners and for the communities,” predicts Mme Delisle.

That of sustainable health at UQAC notably provides complementary expertise for research on the “founder effect” in Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean: a phenomenon of intergenerational transmission of certain rare genetic diseases, more concentrated in this region than in the general population. “We have hired researchers in microbiology, therapeutic chemistry and biostatistics, who work on genes, their link with these diseases and on therapeutic solutions,” explains Gabriel Joyal. The work carried out by the UMR could enable to understand these diseases and find drugs or vaccines. »

This content was produced by the Special Publications team at Duty, relating to marketing. The writing of the Duty did not take part.

To watch on video

source site-39