Life Sciences and Health Technologies


Life Sciences & Health Tech Hub with more than 650 companies, Greater Montréal is a destination of choice for industry leaders, researchers and investments and is where tomorrow’s ideas, treatments and technologies take shape.

At a Glance

  • More than 56,000 industry jobs (80% concentrated in Greater Montréal) in 650 organizations
  • Each year, 10,000 students graduate from health related programs.
  • 6th among North America’s 20 largest metropolitan areas in Life Sciences and Health technologies job density
  • Ranked 1st for operating costs with an average cost advantage of 23% in LSHT compared to major North American metropolitan areas.
  • More than $10 billion have recently been invested in leading-edge infrastructures, including research centres and new hospitals, such as McGill’s MUHC, Université de Montréal’s CHUM, and the CHU Sainte-Justine pediatric hospital.

Sources: Ministère de l’Économie, de la Science et de l’Innovation, 2017; Invivo 2017; Statistics Canada, 2016 and Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 2016, KPMG, 2017.

Top 10 Reasons to Choose Greater Montréal

1. Strategic Location and Direct Access to nearly 1 Billion consumers due to NAFTA and CETA

Access to more than 40 countries with almost 1.2 billion consumers and a combined GDP of nearly US$ 41.2 trillion (one-half of the world’s outputof goods and services).

Montréal is just a 90-minute flight from other major business centres like Boston and New York City, and less than an hour’s drive from the U.S. border.

Air Transportation

The region is served by two international airports: Montréal-Trudeau (passengers) and Montréal-Mirabel (freight), and by a regional airport. Some 50 airlines offer direct flights to 130 destinations in Canada, the U.S. and around the world.


The Port of Montréal, with service to and from more than 100 countries, offers the most direct link between Europe and North America’s industrial heartland.


See a map of Montréal in North America

2. High Concentration of Industry Leaders

Thanks to its proximity to the U.S. and concentration of top-flight students, Greater Montréal provides an ideal ecosystem for life sciences. It has become the North American hub for many businesses and organizations.

The region is now home to a critical mass of Canadian and foreign industry leaders in four strategic niches, including:


  • Pfizer Canada
  • Pharmascience
  • Sandoz Canada
  • Jubilant DraxImage
  • Merck Canada
  • AbbVie
  • Galderma Canada
  • Novartis Pharma Canada
  • Sanofi

Health technologies:

  • Covidien
  • Bracco Imaging Canada
  • Medtronic of Canada
  • Roche Diagnostics
  • TELUS Health Solutions

Did you know?

Greater Montréal is the only metropolitan region in Canada and one of the few in the world where a company can complete the entire drug development process.


  • BELLUS Health
  • Bio-K Plus International
  • Vertex Pharmaceuticals (Canada)
  • Alethia Biotherapeutics
  • Caprion

Contract research/manufacturing:

  • Charles River Laboratories Preclinical Services Montréal
  • Algorithme Pharma
  • Halo Pharmaceutical
  • Pharmetics
  • Uman Pharma

What Alethia Biotherapeutics Has to Say

“Almost half of the biopharmaceutical industry’s activities in Canada are centralized in Québec, and particularly Greater Montréal. The Montréal cluster can support every phase of drug development—from basic research to marketing—which is a tremendous asset in itself.”

Yves Cornellier, President and CEO of Alethia Biotherapeutics

3. Numerous Business Opportunities and Strong Investor Confidence

The myriad investments made in Greater Montréal in recent years confirm the region’s strategic position on the North American LSHT scene.

Did you know?

There are 17,500 LSHT jobs in close to 140 foreign subsidiaries established in Greater Montréal.

  • Galderma Canada: $38 million, 30 jobs
  • Medtech (France)
  • Medtronic CryoCath (U.S.): $51 million, 200 jobs
  • Merck Canada: $33 million
  • Pfizer Canada (U.S.): $22 million (2010) and $32 million (2012)
  • Technidata Canada (France)
  • Vertex Pharmaceuticals (U.S.)
  • Zimmer CAS (U.S.): 30 jobs

Where Research and Discovery Happen

A few of the blockbuster drugs developed in Greater Montréal:

  • Merck Canada: 222® (analgesic), Arcoxia® (pain), Singulair® (asthma)
  • Shire Canada: 3TC® (HIV)
  • Theratechnologies: EgriftaTM (HIV-associated lipodystrophy)
  • GlaxoSmithKline:  Fluvarix® (flu)
  • Pfizer Canada: Premarin® (menopause, osteoporosis)

Myriad Business Opportunities

Major hospitals among the largest in Canada and renowned worldwide

Recent mega university hospitals:
McGill University Health Centre (MUHC)
CHU Sainte-Justine, Mother & child university hospital center
Centre hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal (CHUM)

These world-class research centres affiliated with these hospitals are an extraordinary lever for the businesses they work with (e.g., service contracts, shared projects, partnerships). 

What the Researchers Have to Say

“Research at the university hospitals (CHUM and MUHC) is conducted by close to 1,000 world-renowned researchers. Thanks to investments of $800 million in our two major university hospital research centres, Montréal is becoming one of the leading translational research centres in the world.”

Dr. Papadopoulos, MUHC Research Institute
Dr. Turgeon, CHUM Research Centre

4. Quality Talent and Training

Greater Montréal is Canada’s university capital and one of the few places that is home to two of the world’s top universities. The region boasts a significant pool of brain power, qualified talent and workforce specializing in LSHT.

Did you know?

Canada is home to the world’s best-educated workforce, with the highest proportion of post-secondary graduates among OECD countries

The Montréal metropolitan region offers organizations in the sector:

  • 11 universities with more than 27,000 students in LSHT-related programs
  • 6,300 new LSHT graduates each year
  • 45,000 highly skilled jobs
  • 12,000 researchers and professionals working in 300 public and parapublic research centres
  • Multilingual population: 55% of the population is bilingual and 20% is multilingual (three or more languages)—a key asset for businesses targeting international markets

What Novartis Pharma Has to Say

“It’s the only place I know of where it is possible to bring together all the industry players. One of the greatest advantages of the Montréal life sciences cluster is its access to a pool of close to 200,000 university students. What a luxury!”

Riad Sherif B., President of Novartis Pharma Canada and Chair of Montréal InVivo’s Board of directors.

5. Innovation and R&D Hub, Supported by a Culture of Collaboration

Organizations setting up in Greater Montréal become part of a dense research network that is on the cutting edge of medical and pharmaceutical developments. The region is Canada’s leader in terms of number of research centres and amounts invested in university research.

Where Research and Business Come Together

Montréal’s research network has the confidence of industry giants, as evidenced by the major investments made in recent years (2009-2011).

Company name R&D Expenses in Canada (in M$) Subdivision
Sanofi 492.5 Pharmaceutical
GlaxoSmithKline 427.6 Pharmaceutical
Pfizer Canada 368.4 Pharmaceutical
Novartis Pharma Canada 298.0 Pharmaceutical
Valeant Canada 273.3 Pharmaceutical
Merck Canada 200.2 Pharmaceutical
Pharmascience 98.5 Pharmaceutical
Bioniche Life Sciences 47.2 Pharmaceutical

World-Renowned Expertise in Several Niche Markets

Greater Montréal’s pole position in LSHT is supported by the 12,000 researchers and professionals working in 300 public and parapublic research centres, including:

  • McGill University and Génome Québec Innovation Centre
  • Cancer Research Centre (McGill University)
  • NRC Biotechnology Research Institute (BRI), part of the National Research Council Canada
  • Institut national de la recherche scientifique (INRS)
  • Institut de recherches cliniques de Montréal (IRCM)
  • Institute for Research in Immunology and Cancer (IRIC)
  • Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital (McGill University)
  • Montreal Heart Institute

Did you know?

Greater Montréal is a major player in precompetitive research, which is based on close collaboration between companies and universities.

Collaborative Research Model

Several organizations and consortiums have established private/public partnership arrangements, which promote synergy and facilitate the integration of new players into the network. Some of the most dynamic are:

  • Canada Institutes of Health Research and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, which allocated close to $1.8 billion in grants and subsidies between 2006 and 2011—a record in Canada
  • Québec Consortium for Drug Discovery
  • Fonds de recherche du Québec – Santé
  • Génome Québec
  • NEOMED Institute

What Pfizer Canada Has to Say

“Although Pfizer Canada is an R&D-focused company, it has never had its own research centres. We have always favoured studies conducted in partnership with specialized organizations, both public and private, as this has become the norm in recent years. I think it is a successful model that ensures the renewal and sustainability of Montréal’s ecosystem.”

Ghislain Boudreau,Vice-President of Public Affairs and Stakeholder Relations of Pfizer Canada

6. Lowest Operating Costs in North America

According to KPMG, Greater Montréal ranked 1st for operating costs with an average cost advantage of 23% in LSHT compared to major North American metropolitan areas in 2017.

This includes salaries, energy, transportation, rent and professional services.

Competitive Salaries Combined with Low Benefit Costs (USD)

Montréal Toronto Chicago San Diego Boston
Laboratory Head 68,013 72,224 93,884 99,427 102,965
Laboratory Supervisor 57,529 60,951 84,106 83,846 85,848
R&D Manager (technical) 94,548 100,380 142,864 151,269 159,192
Pharmaceutical Detailer 73,290 77,791 114,107 110,126 126,979
Laboratory Technician 38,532 40,807 52,354 52,731 54,409

Median annual base salaries ($US) based on 5 years experience for various LSHT professions, for 2017
Selection of five large North American metropolitan regions specializing in LSHT. 1.00 CND = 0.7472 USD
Source: Economic Research Institute, 2017

Total Operating Costs for an LSHT Business
Five Sub-Sectors – Selected Major World Cities

Source: Competitive Alternatives – KPMG, 2014

7. Made-to-Measure Financial Incentives

Greater Montréal and the governments roll out the financial red carpet for LSHT businesses that decide to set up their operations here. Numerous financial incentives and assistance programs are available to help them start up.

  • R&D assistance, through three programs available to businesses in the sector:
  • Refundable tax credit for a precompetitive research project in private partnership, which covers 35% of R&D expenses.
  • The Laval Biotechnology Development Centre program: a refundable tax credit covering 30% of expenses (salaries up to $11,250 per employee, acquisition costs, rental fees for goods or specialized facilities).
  • The Scientific Research and Experimental Development (SR&ED) program, which offers 15% tax credits allocated by the Government of Canada and 14% by the Government of Québec (refundable in Québec).
  • Assistance for foreign researchers and experts, with a tax exemption on taxable income in Québec for up to five years (exemption of 100% the first two years, 75% the third year, 50% the fourth year and 25% the fifth year).
  • Assistance for job creation and training, up to 25% of eligible costs to implement a training plan and 50% of HR management setup costs.
  • Venture capital available: From 2001 to 2011, Greater Montréal venture capital firms invested $1.6 billion in more than 1,000 LSHT projects. The region ranks first in Canada with 33% of total investments!

Did you know?

Venture capital investments in the Greater Montréal LSHT sector are diversified and available for all types of development projects, regardless of what phase they are in.

Investments in Venture Capital LSHT (%)
By Sub-Sector
, Greater Montréal, 2001-2011

Source: Thomson Reuters, 2012

Scenario 1: Scientific Research and Experimental Development (SR&ED) tax incentive program, 2014


  • Private, foreign-controlled company
  • 20 eligible employees at $50,000/year
  • 100% of their work is related to eligible activities
  • Subcontractors: $200,000
SALARIES 1,000,000 1,000,000
1,556,000 1,100,000
FEDERAL CREDIT (15%) AND QUÉBEC CREDIT (14%) 233,400 387,400

Notes: 1. This model takes into consideration recent changes made to certain tax credits (2012 and 2014) and is thus valid as of fiscal 2014. 2. Only 80% of the amount paid to a subcontractor is eligible for a federal tax credit and 50% for a Québec tax credit. 3. For the purposes of calculating the combined rate of the credit, the tax credit from the government of Québec is applied against the federal tax credit.

Source: ” Deloitte, Tax Incentive Programs in Québec-IT, June 2014″, Compilation: Montréal International, 2014

8. Generous Tax Framework for Businesses

Thanks to the low corporate tax rate (26.8%, one of the lowest on the continent) and generous R&D tax credits, the tax burden for business start-ups in Greater Montréal is two to five times lower than in other Western cities specializing in LSHT.

Average Tax Burden Index for R&D in the LSHT Sector
(Average for U.S. Metropolitan Areas = 100)
North American and European metropolitan areas, 2014

Source: KPMG, 2014

9. Industrial Clusters that Mobilize Their Stakeholders Around Common Interests

Setting up in the region gives you preferential access to all Life Sciences and Health Technologies leaders. The sector has created an organization, Montréal InVivo, which unites all stakeholders around a common vision and defends the cluster’s interests at the local, national and international levels.

Created in 2007, Montréal InVivo is a strategic think tank that groups all of the major decision makers in Québec’s LSHT sector, including companies, educational and research institutions, associations and unions.

An essential mission: Unite and support all industry stakeholders around common goals and concerted action.

Clear objectives: Accelerate and maximize competitiveness, growth and industry expansion.

Strategic themes: Supply chain, workforce and succession, innovation, image of the industry and national and international expansion, defense and national security, marketing, development of new markets.

10. Personalized, Confidential and No-Cost Support from Montréal International

For many IOs before you, setting up or expanding their operations in Greater Montréal proved to be a strategic decision. And a smart choice too—thanks in part to Montréal International, who guided and supported them BEFORE, DURING and AFTER the process.

MI: Helping you decide

  • Detailed information on the region’s industry clusters
  • Comparative data on the socioeconomic environment: taxation, operating costs, market access, labour, R&D
  • Help with finding business opportunities and key partners 
  • Strategic, personalized and confidential advice for businesses setting up their operations in the area

MI: Helping you set up and integrate

  • Advice on available sources of financing: venture capital, subsidized loans
  • Expertise to help you take full advantage of tax and financial incentives
  • Preferential access to the Greater Montréal business community: private and public organizations; municipal, provincial and federal bodies; universities, training and research centres; financial networks

MI: Helping you succeed

  • Support to businesses looking to expand
  • Personalized and confidential international mobility services to help recruit strategic international workers 
  • Access to our international networks: governments, universities, industry clusters

What Eidos Has to Say

“Before they made their decision, my bosses asked me to look closely at several Canadian cities. Montréal came out ahead in terms of competitiveness, creativity, attractiveness, critical mass, government programs, operating costs, and innovation. Very few cities have such highly developed support structures to help companies like ours develop and recruit strategic talent. That’s extremely valuable.”

Stéphane D’Astous,  ex-General Manager, Eidos Montréal

Sources: Statistique Canada, 2014; Expertise recherche Québec, 2012; KPMG, 2014; Ministère de l’Éducation, du loisir et du Sport (MELS), 2011; QS World University Rankings 2015; Thomson Reuters, 2012

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