Quebec entrepreneurs have imposed their know-how in space to the point where NASA can no longer do without their genius to unravel the mysteries of the universe.
“We had to prove ourselves. We worked with Facebook, which funded our first documentary, which allowed us to work very closely with NASA, ”explains Stéphane Rituit, co-founder and producer of Felix & Paul Studios.
Founded in 2013, the young company of 65 employees located in Old Montreal was able to take off quickly with the support of Quebec patron Phoebe Greenberg and Quebec institutional investors.
“We were lucky to have Phoebe Greenberg, head of the Phi Center, who believed in us very early in 2014. Subsequently, the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (CDPQ), Investissement Québec (IQ ), the Ontario fund OMERS Ventures and Comcast Ventures in the United States, ”said Stéphane Rituit on the show Mind your own business at QUB radio.
In total, Investissement Québec (IQ) has invested $ 1.77 million in the Montreal studio. For its part, the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (CDPQ) still holds between $ 10 and $ 30 million in the firm.
The adventure of Felix & Paul Studios, which began with a music video by Patrick Watson, only needed a few years to point to the sky.
Two years ago, Felix & Paul Studios partnered with TIME to send their camera into space. Everything then happened at the speed of light.
“It was an acceleration. We only had a few months to build a camera and have it certified so that it could fly in space in human space flights. It was no small task, ”says Stéphane Rituit.
Today, his SME is the only media company in the world to have the status of partner of the International Space Station (ISS).
“David Saint-Jacques brought two of our cameras, which have been filming since 2019. We just sent a news this week to the ISS designed to film outside the station at the end of the Canadarm”, explains t -he.
Domes, cinemas, large screens, small screens, cellphones … the images taken in virtual reality will produce documents used to justify the astronomical sums invested by public and private groups.
For Felix & Paul Studios, this is a golden opportunity to create an entertainment experience, while polishing its technology. In space, the constraints of gravity have forced the firm to innovate like never before.
When we ask Stéphane Rituit how his studio has managed to juggle in the top secret world of NASA, he replies that he has experience in the matter.
“We made a good practice by filming the White House, under Obama,” he laughs. The security check was a big test. Afterwards, I believe that we succeeded thanks to the quality of the works, ”he shares.
Some 150 kilometers away, in Sherbrooke, Jean de Lafontaine, founder and CEO of NGC Aérospatiale, is an entrepreneur accustomed to the space sector.
“We are working with the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Russian space agency Roscomos to carry out a mission to the South Pole of the Moon. We are going to participate in the subsystem that manages the moon landing, ”he explains.
Thanks to its software that detects rocks, crevices and too steep slopes, NGC Aerospace can create, in a fraction of a second, a 3D map of the surface of the Moon.
“Traces of water were discovered near craters, which never see the sun, so in theory there could be water in icy form. If we want to colonize the Moon or have a station, it takes water, ”he says.
His SME is also well positioned to win one of the Canadian Space Agency (PCA) competitions, thanks to a GPS-like tool designed for the lunar surface.
“If we want to land very precisely, we have to find a way to do it very precisely. We have developed a technology thanks to which we recognize the craters of the Moon in order to orient ourselves independently, without being human, ”continues the man who sells his licenses to big global players while retaining his intellectual property, here in Quebec.
Felix & Paul Studios
- The head office : Montreal
- Office : Los Angeles
- Foundation: 2013
- Employees: 60
- Projects: Jurassic World, Cirque du Soleil, NASA and SpaceX, Barack Obama and Michelle Obama, Bill Clinton, Eminem, Drake, Bill Murray
Source: Felix & Paul Studios
“The advantage of space is that it’s extremely sexy”
Unlike the traditional aerospace industry, which must hover under clouds of bad news, space exploration has never had the wind in its sails.
“The advantage of space is that it is extremely sexy for the public. It attracts wonder when you think of missions that go to other planets or distant galaxies, ”says Erick Dupuis, director of space exploration development at the Canadian Space Agency (CSA).
For the Quebecer with a doctorate in robotics from McGill University and a master’s degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the observation is clear: the space industry is more attractive than ever.
In recent years, both students and the public have never looked away when they are presented with new space projects.
$ 20 million
Each year, the CSA invests more than $ 20 million through its Space Technology Development Program, half of which goes to Quebec businesses.
“In the last call for tenders, out of the 15 Quebec companies that received funding, ten were small start-ups with less than 25 employees,” continues Erick Dupuis with pride.
ABB (Quebec), NGC (Sherbrooke), MDA (Montreal), GHGsat (Montreal), Nüvü (Montreal), Xiphos (Montreal) … local companies are constantly innovating by developing more and more specialized expertise. more sought after.
“There is no magic formula,” continues Mr. Dupuis. We are good because we focus on specialties. There’s no point in trying to be good at everything, ”he analyzes.
According to him, Quebec succeeds in pulling out of the game in activities in low Earth orbit, such as telecommunications and remote sensing satellites.
For her part, Suzanne Benoît, CEO of Aéro Montréal, is about to launch a grouping of key players with the ASC to continue this momentum. “Quebec has the industrial and technological capacities and the skilled workforce necessary to continue pushing the limits of space exploration. Inseparable from our desire to evolve towards a greener industry, the space sector is also a key catalyst for economic growth in times of recovery. It deserves our full attention, ”she concluded.