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Co-constructed Science Diplomacy in a Federated State: Québec’s Science Diplomacy for Quantum Technologies

emerging technologies quantum technologies Canada Americas

In its last budget, the Government of Canada announced a quantum technologies strategy endowed with $360M CAD over seven years.1 Together with its past investments in research and industry, Canada is poised to capture up to 8% of the global market share in quantum technologies,2 twice Canada’s traditional performance in emerging tech sectors.  

Prior to that, in 2019, the province of Québec committed $100M CAD over seven years for quantum technologies, the largest structured support for quantum information science and technology R&D of all Canadian provinces.3 2022 witnessed the launch of an innovation zone in Sherbrooke in southern Québec, focused on quantum technologies with additional investments of $435 M CAD, including $131 M CAD from the province’s government.4 Québec dedicates a significant part of its public investments in quantum technologies to build world-class infrastructures and a critical mass of researchers. Québec also aims to implement quantum technologies at all levels, in education, research, businesses, and institutions, and to accelerate tech transfer to local enterprises. Québec is thus actively using all the policy levers at its disposal, including its science diplomacy capabilities to secure a leading position in the quantum technology market.

Québec recognizes that it cannot directly compete with the largest players in quantum technologies. Québec’s strategy, therefore, is to collaborate internationally, a vision co-constructed by actors from government, academia, and industry, and built on the strengths of its leading scientists and start-ups. An example of this co-construction is Québec Quantique, launched by the Ministère de l’Économie et de l’Innovation (MEI) to bring universities, research centers, industrial prototyping units, economic development organizations, and incubators to work together coherently.5 With a goal to support economic development by increasing exports, productivity, and foreign direct investment (FDI), Québec’s new international strategy benefits from Québec’s quantum technologies initiative.6 An effective science diplomacy for quantum technologies is thus integral to Québec’s international strategy. The Canadian government and other clusters in Canada have noticed Québec’s successful strategy for quantum technologies, including its science diplomacy aspects, and are keen to emulate it.

Québec has an outsized diplomatic footprint, and its Ministère des Relations internationales et de la Francophonie (MRIF) operates a network of 33 offices in 18 countries representing its interests abroad.7 Twelve of these offices have research and innovation attachés supporting Québec’s global influence in science policy and diplomacy. Another source of influence is Québec’s research funds, Fonds de Recherche du Québec, that supports initiatives with a global societal impact, as well as strategic research clusters that provide an international gateway. Quantum information and quantum materials are at the heart of two such clusters.8

Science diplomacy is where the international interests of government and ecosystem overlap. While Japan, among others, frames science diplomacy in support of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),9 Québec’s international ambitions for quantum technologies are better framed using Ruffini’s key objectives of science diplomacy. These are (i) attracting talent and funding, (ii) facilitating bilateral research collaborations, and (iii) influencing foreign policy ecosystems.10

Collaboration typically fosters the attraction of talent and investment. MRIF and Investissement Québec International focus on attracting foreign direct investment in quantum technologies.  As Québec has complete control over the selection process of economic immigrants, the Ministère de l’Immigration, de la Francisation et de l’Intégration (MIFI) could target potential immigrants with expertise in quantum technologies by putting forward different immigration programs. Québec Quantique provides strategic input to all these actors. For instance, the MRIF has offered training sessions on quantum technologies to its foreign staff, using Québec Quantique’s expertise and training material.

Québec has a track record of being responsive and resourceful in its research collaborations. Its investments are often designed to attract additional funds from Canada or to extend existing Canadian support, as for the Québec recipients of the Canada-UK Quantum Technologies program.11 Another example is the new Québec-Europe collaboration group on research and innovation, CRIQUE, often leveraged by Québec to foster new partnerships in quantum information science and technology.12 For instance, CRIQUE is organizing three thematic workshops to increase collaborations with European partners in quantum technologies, which also includes participants from other clusters in Canada. The MEI also supports programs that allow researchers and companies to participate in international research consortia, which include Horizon Europe,13 and has a tax credit to attract foreign experts to Québec.14

Québec’s diplomacy already highlights expertise on the societal impacts of artificial intelligence as a selling point for trade and investment. For instance, the Montréal Declaration for the Responsible Development of Artificial Intelligence15 helped attract one of only two centers of expertise for the Global Partnership on AI in Montréal.16 Likewise, ethics pervade discussions on quantum technologies, with many societal challenges ahead. Université de Sherbrooke is already developing a science policy simulation to increase quantum information science and technology literacy among policymakers worldwide, another opportunity to raise Québec’s profile internationally.

Quantum technologies have have the potential for much disruption, particularly for encrypted communication protocols, which explains the fierce competition worldwide.17 Such sensitive technologies might be considered unsuitable for international collaborations, and restrictions on research partnerships, trade, and investment may arise. Bigger players can also pressure their allies to follow their own norms or to restrict collaborations.18 While national security is an exclusive jurisdiction of the federal Canadian government, Canadian provinces have a say in trade policies and must be included in these challenging negotiations.19 Moreover, Québec is keen to keep control over its data, aiming for “data sovereignty.”20 Québec’s concerted efforts to build a coherent quantum technologies science diplomacy and its close working relationship with the Canadian government, including biweekly calls with the team supervising the overarching Canadian strategy, position it well to influence Canada’s science diplomacy for quantum technologies and protect Québec’s economic interests.

This perspective provides a case study of how federated states, through a co-constructed approach and a healthy international network, can use science diplomacy for emerging technologies. The co-construction of Québec’s quantum technology strategy ensures buy-in from all actors of the ecosystem. The science diplomacy aspects are, in turn, supported by the concerted actions of bodies of the Québec government with an international remit. We also note that the economic objectives of diplomacy and our scientific goals are so thoroughly entangled that they are simultaneously “science for diplomacy” and “diplomacy for science.”21


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  2. Doyletech, “Quantum Canada Socio-Economic Impact Assessment,” 2017
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  19. Richard Ouellet and Guillaume Beaumier, "L’Activité du Québec en Matière de Commerce International: de l’Énonciation de la Doctrine Gérin-Lajoie à la Négociation de l’AECG," Québec Journal of International Law (2016): 67–79.
  20. Government of Québec, “Transformation Numérique de l’État: Sécurité Informatique et Souveraineté Numérique,” accessed November 30, 2021,
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Diplomacy for Science National Approaches Science for Diplomacy