This year at Graph Expo you were being asked to “Think Big”. Along those lines, Graph Expo 16 “welcomes Wide Format Inkjet Printers”. If you are thinking of expanding your business to develop a wide format capability, funding support might be available.
There are two federal programs in particular that might provide you with funding assistance. IRAP, the Innovation Research Assistance Program, and SR&ED, the Scientific Research and Development Program are both available for companies that are committed to innovation.
The National Research Council of Canada which oversees IRAP, states that IRAP “helps firms to develop technologies and successfully commercialize them in a global marketplace”. In 2015, NRC also introduced its concierge service for the purpose of helping small to medium-sized enterprises navigate the available array of innovation resources and support programs.
Once you contact the IRAP concierge service, they will guide you through a needs assessment. Concierge Advisors are located across Canada and will provide one-on-one assistance to provide you with an assessment of what innovation services are most relevant to your innovation objectives. However, IRAP has a limited budget and not all projects can be approved. As we have mentioned many times in this column, government funding programs with a limited budget often run out of funds before the funding year is over. In the case of IRAP, the year begins in April. Therefore, funding requests submitted before December stand a better chance of funding than those submitted in the last quarter of the federal governments’ fiscal year.
In cases where there is no or limited funding, you can also obtain funding assistance through the SR&ED program.
SR&D unlike IRAP, does not have a limited budget. Based on the most recent government statistics, SR&ED annually provides over $3 billion to innovators across Canada to encourage them by financially supporting their innovation projects. Further, SR&ED does not require that you present your innovation ideas for approval prior to experimental development. It simply requires that you perform your development via systematic investigation.
If you have ever dealt with government funding programs in the past, you will know that it is important to follow the rules. In the case of SR&ED, the golden rule, systematic investigation, must be followed or your project will be disqualified. Canada boasts that it is the most funding-friendly G7 country to do your experimental development in. This is because, through SR&ED, the Government of Canada, along with supporting funding from the province where you conducted your innovation, is prepared to fund your project to approximately 50% of all costs, including employee salaries incurred, contractor expenses, and materials utilized during experimentation and prototype building,
Systematic investigation requires that you conduct your innovative projects beginning with identifying the problem that you hope to solve; formulating a hypothesis aimed at reducing or eliminating that problem; and continuing in the planned manner until the problem is resolved or the project is halted. It is important that during this process you keep the results of your experimentation as the work progresses.
For example, our firm has worked with companies who have commissioned “new” printers that the manufacturers purported were able to perform certain functions, and which didn’t quite perform to the level required by our clients. In these cases, our clients, either working with the manufacturer, or experimenting independently, attempted to expand the limits of the technology through innovative methods. In some cases, they were able to succeed, while in others, they were not, and in one case, our client actually returned the printer to the manufacturer after months of experimentation. In all of these cases, whether the projects succeeded or failed, there was an attempt at innovation, and each client was rewarded with SR&ED funding assistance in the form of a cheque acknowledging the work performed.
As SR&ED application filings are complex and nuanced, it is important that all of your claims, particularly the first few claims, are submitted with professional assistance. In this way, you will be able to introduce your experimental development to the government in its best light. Your competitors are taking advantage of available funding support, shouldn’t you be?