Thu. Feb 29th, 2024

Digital transformation: Quebec supported 10,000 SMEs

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Pierre Fitzgibbon, the Minister of the Economy, says he is encouraged by the number of entrepreneurs supported up to now.

The Canadian Press

Three years after the launch of the Digital Transformation Offensive (OTN), approximately 10,000 Quebec SMEs were supported in the evaluation of their digital transformation projects. The Legault government now wants to know how many of them will move from the feasibility study to completion.

While it is still too early to assess all the benefits of the OTN, the Minister of the Economy, Pierre Fitzgibbon, says he is encouraged by the number of entrepreneurs who have been supported so far. x27;see you now.

We have nearly 10,000 companies that are supported, so I find that interesting, declared the minister during ;an interview devoted to the results of the OTN. He predicts that number will double, to 20,000.

In March 2021, the government launched the Digital Transformation Offensive. Initially with a budget of $130 million, increased to $240 million, the program provides assistance of up to 50% of the costs of a feasibility study of the company's digital transformation project. x27;an SME. The other half is paid by the company.

At the end of this, the company can decide whether or not to move forward with implementing the report's recommendations, alone or by benefiting from financial assistance. another program, if necessary, also commented Mr. Fitzgibbon.

The government does not directly choose the beneficiary companies. Instead, it pays aid to organizations that will support SMEs in their industry. More than thirty organizations participated in the program, including Inno-center, the Food Transformation Council of Quebec (CTAQ), the Industrial Automation Business Regroupment (REAI) and the Institute of tourism and hospitality of Quebec (ITHQ).

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For Mr. Fitzgibbon, this aid to businesses is one means among others to help the Quebec economy catch up on productivity. I wanted us to have a mechanism so that companies could realize the potential benefits of digitalization, he recalled.

It is still early to make an exhaustive assessment of the program, also indicated the Minister of the Economy. Of the $240 million envelope, $191 million has been paid to organizations, but they have not yet deployed all of the support.

The Inno-centre organization, which received initial aid of $20 million in 2021, carried out a survey among a sample of participants after the feasibility study. Respondents indicated that after doing their feasibility study, they were able to improve their productivity by 22%. Quebec has also granted another tranche of 23.6 million to the organization.

Mr. Fitzgibbon himself added a caveat when discussing the result. This sample is probably not representative of all industries and companies that have obtained a feasibility study. It would be a little aggressive [optimistic] to put that figure for everyone, he admitted.

The government will evaluate further details the benefits of the OTN before deciding whether to extend it beyond March 2025. During next year, I will want us to look more precisely at the benefit that ;we had a program, he said.

Before making a decision, Mr. Fitzgibbon wants to know the number of companies that have been supported, the proportion of those that have gone ahead with their projects and to have data on the effect of the projects on the productivity of these companies. We will ask them for a report to be able to have data to [decide] if we want, for example, to renew the program, he explained.

The minister also wants to understand the reasons why certain SMEs would decide not to take advantage of the conclusions of the feasibility study. Is it about money? Is it because the conclusions of the report were not conclusive enough?, he wonders.

At the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB), we believe that OTN has had positive impacts. Its vice-president for Quebec, François Vincent, cites a CFIB survey, published in December, which shows that a greater proportion of Quebec SMEs have started an automation process compared to the Canadian average. .

The report focuses on automation rather than digital transformation, but it provides insight into the appetite of SMEs who want improve their productivity, says Mr. Vincent.

However, there remains the difficulty of making government programs, such as OTN, known to smaller SMEs. He must do more to reach smaller SMEs, argues Mr. Vincent.

Mr. Fitzgibbon also believes that promoting the program is a challenge. It estimates that nearly 150,000 SMEs could potentially improve their businesses with digital transformation. It’s a lot of people, 150,000 people. The human resources needed to contact these people to be able to work with them is enormous. So, it's definitely an issue.

Mr. Fitzgibbon hopes the review of the program will demonstrate that it is worth renewing. We have a productivity issue in Quebec, I think that is not a surprise. The Digital Transformation Offensive is a way, in my opinion, to close this gap, he concluded.

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