How to get funding for your 3D printing projects

Elliot Schiller.
Elliot Schiller.

Here, Elliot Schiller, a Director at Toronto’s Teeger Schiller Inc., a firm specializing in government funding and systems selection and implementation, investigates how to get government funding for your 3D projects. His clients receive over $5 million annually to support ongoing business innovation. E-mail eschiller@teegerschiller.com, visit www.FundingHelp.ca or phone 1-888-816-0222 Ext. 102.

Are you developing a 3D product or part for a customer, or are you the customer specifying the part in order to develop a prototype for your innovative idea? Either way, you may be eligible for funding support from the federal government as well as from the province in which you’re conducting your experiment. Most large-scale innovation projects begin with a proof-of-concept prototype. With the introduction of 3D printing, prototypes can now be built quicker and at a lower cost. That means that ideas that were once too costly to be proofed and perfected by smaller enterprises are now within the realm of possibility – especially with the cost of experimentation being further reduced by government assistance. With over $3 billion being distributed annually, the largest federal funding support program is the Scientific Research and Experimental Development program (SR&ED), managed by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). SR&ED, which was first introduced by the Mulroney government in 1985, has been the cornerstone of Canadian innovation funding since that time.

3D printed prototypes.
3D printed prototypes courtesy of Toronto 3D studio Objex Unlimited.

While there have been modifications to the program since its inception, the basic principles of eligibility for the program remain the same. As stated by the Tax Court of Canada in Northwest Hydraulic vs The Queen, those are:

  • “Is there a technological risk or uncertainty, which cannot be eliminated by current technology?”
  • “Did the person claiming to be doing SR&ED formulate hypotheses specifically aimed at reducing or eliminating that technological uncertainty?”
  • Were the procedures adopted “characterized by trained and systematic observation, measurement and experiment, and the formulation, testing and modification of hypotheses?”
  • “Did the process result in a technological advance?”
  • “Was a detailed record of the hypotheses, tests, and results kept?”

In laymen terms, if at the beginning or during an existing project, whether for the specific objective of innovating (e.g. new product or improved process) or to fulfill a customer requirement, you discover a problem that requires an innovative solution, and you follow basic principles of systematic investigation, CRA provides financial assistance upwards of 60% of all costs, including staff salaries – regardless of success or failure.

A recent project undertaken by one of our clients and supported by CRA was the attempted development of a new means to collapse two tubes into each other (note: we are being specifically abstract to respect our clients’ innovation). To begin the project, our client developed the joins between the tubes utilizing 3D-printer-created joins. Once the hypothesis was tested in a simulated environment, and modifications and enhancements were made to the 3D parts, an actual product was developed using production materials.

In the above case, not only was the manufacturer able to receive SR&ED funding support, but the printer contracted to produce the 3D parts was also eligible for funding. The contractor, while being paid an agreed-upon price by its customer to develop the 3D parts, ran into serious development problems. These problems, which were eventually resolved utilizing innovative solutions, resulted in a cost overrun to the printer. As the project met the five criteria of SR&ED, the 3D printer was eligible to receive funding from CRA. Of course, the project costs first needed to be reduced by the amount paid by the customer, but the rest of the costs were eligible for funding.

SR&ED is willing to reimburse an innovator for salary costs, materials transformed costs, and if a contractor (in this case, a 3D printer) is required, for those costs also. While the formula for what percentage of costs differs from province to province, once provincial funds are included in the overall funding, it’s fair to assume that somewhere between 40%-60% of all costs are reimbursable. Furthermore, for most companies not foreign-owned or classified as “large” companies, CRA sends you a cheque for their contribution, regardless of your business financials.

Don’t miss out on this opportunity. With a percentage of your costs being reimbursed by government, your 3D printing services or your internal 3D innovation costs can become more affordable to both your customer or your business expansion objectives. There are deadlines associated with this funding, so, don’t delay in confirming your eligibility. As always, Teeger Schiller is available to help you.

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Tony Curcio is the editor of Graphic Arts Magazine.