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Top funding opportunities for Canadian manufacturers

The best way to use government funding opportunities for manufacturing is to integrate them as part of an overall growth strategy and construct a funding plan


September 18, 2019
By Treena Hein

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September 18, 2019 – “Globalization of the manufacturing community has increased competition to levels never seen before,” notes Chris Casemore, director of client management and development at Mentor Works, which helps companies implement tailored solutions to support their growth.

“This thick competition is one of the many reasons why Canadian government funding, from both federal and provincial sources, is so important to the Canadian manufacturing sector.” Casemore believes Canada is a hotbed of innovation, and that “the key players just need additional resources to uncover and create these opportunities.”

Scott McNeil-Smith, national director of projects and partnerships at the Excellence in Manufacturing Consortium (EMC), agrees. EMC is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping manufacturers become more competitive, and hold over a thousand related events across Canada every year.

“The pace of change with respect to advanced manufacturing, digitization, robotics, AI and other technologies is placing unprecedented challenges on small and medium-sized industries,” says McNeil-Smith. “The only way for these businesses to remain viable is to help level the playing field. For many companies, especially SMEs, access to funding programs can mean the difference between a leap to the next level of productivity or being surpassed.”

How to apply
Before we list federal funding programs (and visit the Mentor Works website for provincial ones), Mentor Works advises that no matter the grant or loan criteria, all applications require a detailed description of how a project will be organized and the impact it will provide.

Manufacturers should also obviously pay close attention to the submission guidelines and clearly explain how their proposed projects relate to the funding program objectives. And while it’s always possible to access funding on a project-by-project basis, Mentor Works highly recommends incorporating grants and loans as part of an overall growth strategy. This means taking the time to construct a government funding plan.

Casemore reminds manufacturers that although the funding landscape can seem “daunting,” his organization and other resources like CanadaBusiness.ca are here to provide tools and more. (These tools obviously include R&D tax credits, and for more on these, please see the January 2019 issue of Manufacturing Automation). Lastly, to learn how various companies have used the services of Mentor Works to navigate it all successfully, visit its client spotlight blog.

Federal funding opportunities for manufacturers
The CanExport program, as it sounds, supports export marketing (for example, brand exposure at tradeshows, market research) as well as international expansion activities (packaging modifications and more). Markets must be under-developed, including countries where less than $20,000 or 10 per cent of a company’s international sales were generated in the past 24 months. The program covers up to 50 per cent of eligible expenses or $10,000-$50,000 in cost-matched funds per application. Applicant companies must have a maximum of 250 employees, $200K-50M annual taxable revenue, and at least one year incorporated or as a limited liability partnership (LLP).

The Canada Job Grant reduces costs associated with providing third-party skills training to new and existing employees. Grants cover half to all of training costs (for example, tuition, exams, textbooks, software resources) to a maximum of $5,000 to $15,000 per trainee. You must be a Canadian SME with $2M in liability insurance and your trainees must be either permanent Canadian citizens or have refugee status.

The Innovative Solutions Canada (ISC) program provides grants and procurement contracts to stimulate tech R&D and commercialization. It helps start-ups and SMEs (maximum 499 full-time employees) to overcome tech development hurdles so that they can produce globally demanded products and services while also improving government operations. There are three grant phases: up to $150K, up to $1M, and government procurement contracts with no fixed maximum.

Federal procurement program Innovation for Defence Excellence and Security (IDEaS) is administered through the Department of National Defence (DND). It supports the development of military and defence technologies that have the potential to address current challenges faced by Canada’s Armed Forces. There is a maximum of $20M provided per project, and other than that, applicants must only demonstrate at least 50 per cent Canadian content for goods and services.

The NGen Manufacturing Supercluster Funding members-only program supports the development of collaborative tech projects (and projects involving the application of tech) that help Canadian manufacturing companies compete globally. Grants are provided for up to 44.4 per cent of eligible project expenses (which must be between $1M and $20M); this equals $444,000 to $8,880,000. You must have a minimum of three private-sector project partners and the lead partner and participants must all be NGen members.

The long-standing Industrial Research Assistance Program (IRAP) provides financial help in technical or research-focused projects that solve a firm’s internal innovation challenge. This could include software implementation and productivity improvements, as well as production design or marketing projects. Grant amounts can reach $10M with 80 per cent of direct labour and 50 per cent of sub-contractor expenses covered. You must have 500 employees at most, two years incorporation and internal technical R&D expertise.

Protein Industries Canada (PIC) Supercluster Funding promotes collaborative product or process research, tech development and export market development projects proposed by at least two PIC members which will expand Canada’s plant-based protein sector. It covers up to 50 per cent of eligible project expenses with no maximum contribution.

SIF (the Strategic Innovation Fund) assists industrial and tech-based corporations in expansion and R&D of products, processes and services. At least $10 million (half of project costs) is provided per project in the form of grants, loans or a mixture of the two.

Hiring grants are widely available across Canada for onboarding new young employees in manufacturing. Funding is generally aligned to the type of candidate hired and how long they have been your employees; recent graduates are a priority. Candidates should be in (or recently graduated from) a business or STEM education program.

Looking for provincial funding opportunities for manufacturers?

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Treena Hein is an award-winning freelance science and tech writer based in Ontario.