Bringing Basic Research Closer to Actual Applications - By : Sylvain G. Cloutier,

Bringing Basic Research Closer to Actual Applications

Sylvain G. Cloutier
Sylvain G. Cloutier Author profile
Sylvain G. Cloutier is a professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering at ÉTS. He specializes in nanotechnology and optoelectronic materials.


Editor’s Note

The 9th Annual CQMF Symposium (Centre québécois des matériaux fonctionnels) was held on November 24 and 25, 2016, at the École de technologie supérieure (ÉTS), in Montréal. This article summarizes the opening speech delivered by Sylvain Cloutier, Director of Faculty Affairs, Research and Partnerships at ÉTS.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution

In January 2016, the World Economic Forum announced that organizations were on the threshold of a profound transformation that would lead to major paradigm shifts surrounding value creation. Indeed, after several inventions that led successively to significant changes in our society, such as the steam engine, electricity, mass production, microelectronics and automated production, we are heading toward a fourth Industrial Revolution with the emergence of cybermachines and smart production.

The trends and challenges associated with this revolution can be felt already and indications are that it will be profound and global. It will not be limited to the manufacturing sector, but will also affect the construction, transport, communications, medical, agricultural and retail sectors. It is clear that massive data mining, the Internet of objects and additive manufacturing will be playing major roles.

Bringing Basic Research Closer to Applied Research

Technologies are evolving faster than ever. It took 52 years to sell 100 million phones, 35 years to sell 100 million wireless radios, 27 years to sell 100 million televisions, 16 years to sell 100 million personal computers, 18 months to get 100 million Facebook users and 7 months to get 7 million Twitter users. Today, more people own a cell phone than a toothbrush.


Meanwhile, the history of humanity is full of examples demonstrating the importance of materials. Inventors of major technological breakthroughs such as transistors, lasers, and fiber optics dreamt of these innovations decades before they became reality: simply put, the materials had not yet reached the required degree of purity. However, in all these cases, the Nobel Prize related to these technological breakthroughs was attributed not to those who had had the idea but to those who brought them to life.

We must therefore stop separating basic research from applied research, since the big winners in the new economy will be those who quickly moved to the application. This will require developing a research ecosystem in which the major sectors will contribute jointly, in a synergistic manner. Research must be decompartmentalized and the innovation cycle accelerated from a technological and social point of view.

Advanced Materials at the Heart of Change

CQMF researchers are currently working on several projects that will have a significant long-term impact on Quebec society: affordable solar panels, lightweight concrete that can better resist the Québec climate, high-performance insulation, biosynthetic materials, reinforced thermoplastics to lighten vehicles and reduce greenhouse gases, and many more.

For more information on CQMF research areas, please read the following articles:


Nanoscience and Nanotechnology




Ever Smarter Materials





Biointerfaces – Challenges and Issues




cqmf4Biomaterials in biomedical science and technology




cqmf5Strategic Research Themes in Energy




cqmf6Research for the Environment and Sustainable Development




cqmf7Polymers Research: an Update






Sylvain G. Cloutier

Author's profile

Sylvain G. Cloutier is a professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering at ÉTS. He specializes in nanotechnology and optoelectronic materials.

Program : Electrical Engineering 

Research chair : Canada Research Chair in Printed Hybrid Optoelectronic Materials and Devices  ArianeGroup Research Chair on Emerging Materials in the Aeronautics and Space sector 

Author profile

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