Innovator’s Guide to Government Funding

This week we completed our sixth and final Innovation Peer Group session with TechConnex. 

The subject was one that is near and dear to many businesses:  government funding. Our guest speakers came from two different but very complementary organizations and points of view – Brian Cookson, President and Managing Director of RDP Associates, and Rami Posner, Innovation Advisor from the National Research Council.  

Both speakers brought incredibly valuable insights into the various funding options available for businesses, and how to engage with them. Here are five essential tips from our session for maximizing government funding:   

  1. The decision to apply for a grant should be strategic –Look at grants as a way to leverage the initiatives that are already part of your strategy or plan. What that means is that you should have decided on the initiative as the right thing to do for your business and applying for a grant will provide for additional funds to achieve the result faster or expand the project to cover additional work you would like to accomplish. The grant will also help to decrease the financial risk of undertaking the project. 
  1. Know what funding is available to meet your goals– Did you know that Canada gives out more government grants than any other country? While this is great news, with the multitude of programs available and with changing governments, these can be confusing times. Sometimes we hear of funding opportunities too late or we get deep into a funding application only to find out we’re not eligible, or funds have run out. Organizations such as RDP Associates and NRC’s Concierge Service can help you navigate the grant funding landscape.  
  1. Timing is everything – Understand the government budget cycle and plan ahead.  Grant approvals must be obtained before the project/hiring/training begins, so give sufficient time for both application preparation and approval. In addition, some programs have limited application windows, and others are highly competitive which can decrease your chances of getting funding. Virtually every grant program will go through a period where the number of applicants exceeds available funding, so having a solid, well-timed plan is key.  
  1. What can affect your chances of success? Just because you apply and meet the grant criteria, it doesn’t mean you are guaranteed grant funding. Grant programs must manage their fundingMany companies who file for SR&ED tax credits do so each year and most have a very high success rate of receiving the financial benefits of the program. However, depending on the specific grant program, you have a 30% to 70% chance of not receiving a grant. If you need 100% certainty, grants are definitely not for you. 
  1. Understand the problem that the government is trying to solve – When applying for government grants, bear in mind that the government is looking to understand the benefit of your project for Canada. Can you commercialize? Will you hire people? Can you export your solution? Are there spillover benefits such as increasing jobs for suppliers? Do you have the management skills for success? Consider picking a small project with a lower fund request to start, move to a larger, higher funded project after demonstrating success.  

Want to better understand your funding options? Check out the deck from RDP Associates that Brian Cookson presented at our session, which delves into specific grants based on your business needs as well as the government’s new Innovation Canada platform. 

Thanks to all who attended our Innovation Peer Group sessions and to TechConnex for hosting us! 

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