Montreal, future cybersecurity hub?

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Montreal could welcome by the end of the year a new innovation zone bringing together companies and organizations that want to develop and market cybersecurity tools.

And given the proposed strategy, if this project is carried out, the Quebec metropolis could play an essential role for computer security, like the one it already plays in other technological sectors, including video games.

The innovation zones are currently around thirty economic development projects that have been submitted over the past year to the Quebec Ministry of Economy and Innovation by representatives of different industries located everywhere. in the province.

In Montreal, a health technology innovation zone has already been submitted by Montreal International and its partners in the field.

The organization, whose mandate is to attract foreign direct investment to us, is also associated with the cybersecurity innovation zone project, which is however managed by the non-profit organization Cybereco. The latter was created in 2018 thanks in particular to the financial assistance of companies in the financial sector, such as Desjardins and the National Bank.

Computer security essentially affects all businesses that have an Internet connection. The banking sector is however a little more sensitive to this phenomenon, since it represents a prime target for hackers.

Already one step ahead

However, the proposed innovation zone goes far beyond the simple development of cybersecurity tools that the major Canadian banks could use to protect themselves from online attacks, explains Marcel Labelle, who heads Cybereco.

“We first want to stimulate innovation and accelerate the commercialization of technologies created here,” he said in an interview with Le Devoir . The objective in creating a zone is to bring together the ecosystem of companies and organizations in the technological sector around specific projects. “

Projects that could affect different economic sectors. Cybereco is targeting six: utilities, government, finance, technology, health and transport.

According to Mr. Labelle, the establishment of an innovation zone like this would generate direct investments of approximately $ 500 million over the next five years and encourage the creation of 1,000 jobs.

 We first want to stimulate innovation and accelerate the commercialization of technologies created here.

– Marcel Labelle

By comparison, the Montreal cybersecurity sector currently employs 19,000 people in the greater Montreal area. The investment generated by both businesses and university research centers is equivalent to $ 1.3 billion annually. In fact, Montreal is already the city with the highest funding for cybersecurity research in Canada.

The fact that Montreal has researchers and entrepreneurs from related sectors – artificial intelligence and financial technologies, for example – could also help create certain synergies, adds Marcel Labelle. “The area would create a physical space, with the right infrastructure, to stimulate them. “

Inspired by the early days of video games

The Montreal International organization is relying heavily on the creation of this innovation zone to attract new foreign investors for its part or to encourage foreign companies already present in Montreal to invest more there.

“It is a tool to attract specialized companies or to convince others to set up their IT security innovation center in Montreal,” says Alexandre Lagarde, vice-president of foreign direct investment at Montreal International, which cites as an example the IT companies OneSpan and Maltem, which recently opened offices in the metropolis.

There are certain similarities between the creation of this zone and the approach adopted twenty years ago, when Montreal wanted to attract video game giants to its territory. The success has been such that today, publishers based in Montreal are struggling to fill all available positions.

Montréal International sees the establishment of a new downtown technology zone as part of the solution to the labor shortage that affects not only industries far beyond the video game sector alone, but also downtown Montreal, at least since the start of the pandemic.

“Talent attracts talent. By establishing an area of ​​expertise, we can not only attract foreign investment, but also attract professionals and other talented people to Montreal, ”says Mr. Lagarde.

And by establishing this area close to downtown, Cybereco and Montreal International believe they can help revitalize a neighborhood that has been massively deserted in recent months.

It now remains to be seen whether the Ministry of Economy and Innovation will approve this project. The ministry promises a response over the next few months, possibly before the end of the year.

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