Recently, I attended a seminar presented by Public Works and Governmental Services Canada discussing the federal Built in Canada Innovation Program (BCIP).
BCIP’s stated objective is to help Canadian businesses bridge the pre-commercialization gap that many of them face in moving their innovative goods and services from the laboratory to the marketplace. If you have a new product that is at least at the ‘ready to be tested in an operational environment’ stage, BCIP could be for you.
As many an entrepreneur knows, one of the most challenging hurdles to bringing a product to market is getting the first customer. BCIP tries to award government contracts to entrepreneurs by matching them up with a federal government department that can use their specific innovation, and once approved, the Government becomes your first customer. For example, at the conference, we heard from various entrepreneurial companies who have developed products that range from laboratory microscopes, to inventory management RFID antennas, to software that measures program delivery effectiveness. Each of these companies was paid the price that their product and services will sell for in the marketplace, up to a maximum of $500,000. The products purchased through BCIP will then be tested by an interested governmental office.
Before you say that you are in the print industry, and ask why would the government would need your innovation, remember, the government is in every conceivable business, from retail at a military base requiring the same inventory management requirements that any wholesale distributor needs to manage inventory, to a repair shop needing high tensile strength 3D printed replacement parts. In other words, the sum total of government departments and agencies is no different in business requirements than your existing customer base.
Assuming your project is awarded BCIP funding, it is then paired up with a government department that either requires that innovative product, or, after learning about what your product can do, recognizes a potential use for that product to fulfill a need, perhaps even one that they were unaware existed before you introduced the solution to them. Let’s say you’ve developed an innovative solution that enables a large format printer to print a traditionally small format job, but with your innovation, prints it 4-up as opposed to the normal 1-up. Your innovation dramatically increases productivity. You’ve tested it at your facilities, and are now ready to offer this solution to the marketplace. You haven’t found a first customer yet, and, there are still some questions with respect to its readiness for the marketplace. In other words, you need a first customer who understands the risks, but is willing to invest in the solution.
If the customer is a branch of the government, BCIP purchases the solution, and that branch tests it. The commitment of the tester is to provide the resources to test the product thoroughly enough to produce a written report, including statements of experience with the product (hopefully, very positive), and even recommendation for nice-to-have additions to the product to improve its effectiveness.
In other words, you sell the product and have someone else test it in an operational environment. You get a report that you can use as a marketing tool to attract other potential customers, and in the best of all worlds, the department that worked with you discovers the cost effectiveness of your innovation, wants more of it, and puts out a bid to procure that innovation, providing you with a nice opportunity to sell more of it to a customer who already is familiar and competent with the innovation.
Currently BCIP has a call out for proposals. If you have an innovation that you think is ready for operational testing, and you want to submit a proposal, the url is https://buyandsell.gc.ca/initiatives-and-programs/build-in-canada-innovation-program-bcip/submit-a-proposal
Here are three tips to help you succeed
- Make sure that your innovation is well stated
- Articulate the value proposition for your targeted customer
- Submit a proposal that is as professionally developed as your innovation
You only have ONE chance to make a first impression!
If you need assistance, or simply a second set of eyes to evaluate your proposal, my firm is ready to help. Many of the questions have word limits, so, you will need to make your best argument using succinct wording. Good luck!