How to Engage with Innovation Canada (ISED): Info Session Recap

As part of our mission to help clean technology companies access the support, funding, and expertise they need to succeed at home and abroad, the Alacrity Canada Cleantech team organized a few informative sessions for our cleantech portfolio and other companies in the sector to learn more about expanding their business internationally.

This session with Innovation, Science, and Economic Development Canada (ISED), was hosted by Ana Fong-Marquez, Senior Innovation Advisor. Ana presented ISED’s mission and explained how this branch of the federal government can help small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) navigate the complex terrain of funding and grant programs. She also covered which programs are popular for SMEs and what companies need in order to be eligible and successfully apply for the various options available.

An image showing the innovation.canada.ca website and the various services that Innovation Canada provides to Canadian businesses.
Innovation Canada’s services, at a glance.

Innovation Canada’s Core Services

ISED has two core services that are offered to SMEs in Canada: the Business Benefits Finder, which helps identify funding programs and other support services, and access to Innovation Advisors, like Ana, for additional help and guidance.

Business Benefits Finder

The Business Benefits Finder is an online tool that gives SMEs the ability to narrow down their search for programs based on the company’s stage of development and growth. In a few minutes, the “story” of the company can be completed to address questions about what type of government support is being sought, what other support is needed, what the main goal(s) of the company are in terms of growth, the location and sector of the company, at what stage the company is currently at, and what types of programs they are interested in accessing. The tool then provides all of the programs, services, and funding opportunities available based on these answers. Companies can also create their own account and “favourite” programs that are relevant to them in order to receive updates about those programs as they change over time.

Innovation Advisors

Innovation Advisors are available to meet with businesses individually, helping them navigate which funding programs, grants, and other ISED services could be of assistance or most relevant to their particular circumstances. These advisors also help connect businesses with the appropriate contacts in government branches to get questions answered or requests addressed.

Innovation Canada’s Funding Programs

ISED has five main categories of funding that companies can apply for: clean technology, hiring, exporting, financing, and research and development. For most BC-based cleantech SMEs, the following programs could be applicable to help with business development and growth efforts.

  • The B.C. Fast Pilot Program – provides up to $200,000 for a pilot or demo project to showcase a cleantech solution for potential customers. The application deadline for expressing interest in this program is April 12th.
  • The National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC IRAP) – provides advice, connections, and funding to help Canadian SMEs increase their innovation capacity as they develop ideas and take them to market. The application period for this program is open. The program is competitive and based on the level of technological innovation, market potential, and the management team.
  • The Canadian Revenue Agency Scientific Research and Experimental Development Tax Incentive Program (CRA SR&ED, commonly referred to as “SHRED”) – learn how to claim scientific research and experimental development tax incentives for business development. A tax credit of up to 64% can be taken advantage of. The application period is open and research and development projects are assessed for eligibility based on documentation and time tracking.
  • The Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC) Seed and Tech Funds – funds small and medium-sized pre-commercial Canadian businesses that are advancing innovative technologies that have the potential to demonstrate “significant and quantifiable environmental and economic benefits.” SDTC provides up to $5 million of contributions and, on average, 33% or up to 40% of eligible project costs can be covered.
  • The CanExport Program – provides funding opportunities for exporters and innovators through reimbursements of 75% of expenses up to $75,000 to develop the business in a new export market. The application period for this program is open and has additional revenue and market requirements.
Hiring programs

Programs specific to helping companies grow their team are also available. Many of these programs support shorter-term employment of students or youth for project-based work.

  • Co-op and Student Hiring Grants – available through Innovate BC, Eco Canada, and the Information and Communications Technology Council (ICTC). These programs typically provide a $5,000 to $7,000 grant for a 16 week duration. The application period is open year-round. Some programs may require specific disciplines such as science or engineering, while others only require that the student is in a technology-related role.
  • Youth Employment Grants – available through Eco Canada, Colleges and Institutes Canada, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, and BioTalent Canada with varying open application periods. These programs typically offer $15,000 to $20,000 in wage subsidies (usually match 50%) to hire youth between the ages of 15 and 30.
  • Mitacs Accelerate Program –  provides 50% matching grants of $7,500 for a scalable 4-month research internship conducted by a graduate or PhD student. The application period is currently open.

Engaging with ISED

ISED provides programs, resources, and expert advisors to help Canadian companies innovate and grow, commercializing homegrown solutions and contributing to the economy as a result. Companies looking for funding and support can visit the Innovation Canada website for a complete description of their services.

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