McGill University’s Bensadoun School of Retail Management will receive $5 million in funding to drive retail innovation and research, and support the province’s small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). As part of the provincial government’s economic recovery plan in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and its new digital transformation initiative, the funding from the Quebec Ministry of Economy and Innovation will be provided over four years to scale up interdisciplinary research activities, foster retail talent, establish professional development programs, and conduct knowledge transfer for Quebec SMEs.
“We are delighted to receive this vital support, which will enable us to help rebuild and strengthen a key sector of our economy at such a critical time,” said Professor Saibal Ray, Academic Director of the Bensadoun School of Retail Management. “I would like to thank the Government of Quebec for investing to help shape the future of retail and for their vote of confidence in our community of researchers, students and industry partners.”
A major portion of the funding will go towards the Bensadoun School’s newly launched retail innovation lab which integrates interdisciplinary research and artificial intelligence, enabling researchers to develop new ideas and technologies to improve the customer experience in a socially responsible fashion with the help of partner organizations. The lab’s inaugural retail partner is Quebec success story Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc.
Funds will also be allocated towards supporting SMEs to succeed in their digital and omni-channel transformation through professional development opportunities, executive education, and dissemination of knowledge and best practices. A final pillar benefited by this government investment will be to help cultivate the next generation of skilled retail talent through student research stipends, internships, and other experiential learning opportunities via the Bensadoun School.
“Supporting the Bensadoun School will make up for the delay some of our storekeepers have faced because of retailers in major digital transformation chains. People have come up with new online consumption habits because of the pandemic. Consequently, it is imperative that our retail trade industry adapt and look toward new technologies and electronic trade,” states Pierre Fitzgibbon, Minister of Economy and Innovation.
“The trade commerce industry is faced with changes in technological access and their effects on our consumption habits. The Bensadoun School has developed great initiatives for its staff to adapt to the electronic trade era and benefit from new consumer habits. The contribution we are making today is the key to SME economic performance in this industry,” adds Lucie Lecours, Minister for the Economy.
“The retail sector—and SMEs in particular—has been strongly impacted by the pandemic. Innovation and digitization are critical to revitalizing the ‘new economy’. We are poised and excited to help put Quebec on the map as a hub of world-class retail excellence.” said Charles de Brabant, Executive Director at the Bensadoun School.