Ontario business and product development grants for small companies

Do you need funds to elevate your company from a less than 50 person organization to a bigger shop? Do you have a business development strategy that could change who you are? Do you have a product in early stage commercialization that, with funding, could be diversified to a much larger marketplace? If so, then the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario) is ready to help. FedDev Ontario works with businesses to actively promote and build a strong foundation of partnerships and relationships to secure Canada’s long-term prosperity.

Its Investing in Business Innovation (IBI) initiative is designed to foster a more competitive southern Ontario economy by focusing on providing support to businesses with less than 50 employees. This support can help transform ideas, such as enhancing business productivity, through the adoption of standards to encourage these companies to develop, improve and provide globally-competitive products and services, and enable them increased access to private sector investment and advice.

Your company is eligible if you are a Canadian-incorporated company, headquartered in Southern Ontario with less than 50 full-time equivalent positions, and if your shop is undertaking activities related to late-stage development and early-stage commercialization of innovative, unique products and processes (including business development). For example, activities related to:

  • Business development including building high-performance teams; adopting best management practices, processes and systems; and improving governance and investment readiness;
  • Late-stage product development geared towards market diversification and growth;
  • Customer and market development; and
  • Developing and implementing marketing and distribution strategies.

Be prepared to demonstrate to IBI:

  • That the project will accelerate the commercialization of new innovative products and services within three to five years;
  • That you can provide evidence of eligible investment committed to and available for the project;
  • That you can provide evidence of a sustainable business model and a working prototype (or minimum viable product) being developed;
  • The potential for high growth;
  • A significant opportunity to create jobs, sales and diversify markets;
  • The rights to use the background intellectual property required for the project;
  • Appropriate management (including advisory or mentoring) and technical skills;
  • Evidence of the project’s cost estimates;
  • Compliance with all previous agreements with government funding agencies;
  • Capacity to account for and execute the project successfully in a timely manner; and
  • To what extent the project has potential to provide economic benefits to Southern Ontario.

Priorities will normally support early-stage businesses focused on diversifying markets. If funding is granted, IBI will provide funds to cover labour, expertise, non-capital, and capital (up to a maximum of 25% of eligible costs). As with almost all grant programs, costs that were incurred prior to the eligibility date or costs incurred after the project completion date are ineligible for funding. Other ineligible costs include mass media advertising; acquisition of intellectual property; and acquisition of land and buildings.

The rest of the fine print is that companies that cannot demonstrate sustainability and/or commercialization within three to five years will not be considered under this initiative; and innovations that are targeted primarily at retail consumer markets will also not be considered under this initiative.

IBI will provide a repayable contribution to a maximum of $1 million per project for up to one-third (33.3%) of eligible costs with the expectation that projects will be completed within two years. As with all repayable contributions, repayments of contributions will be expected to commence as soon as reasonably possible, without compromising the success of the project or the organization receiving the funding. Again, the fine print:  “the specific terms of repayment, including date of commencement and length of repayment term, will be determined on a case-by-case basis during the development of the contribution agreement. Repayments will begin no later than one year following the completion of the project.”

Just because your company seems to qualify for IBI funding doesn’t mean you will be granted the funds. Funding is at the discretion of IBI and will be granted to the “best” companies with the “best” projects with the “best” chance for success. Make sure that you have a well thought out project and business plan that clearly demonstrates a strategy for success to show IBI that yours is a “best” company.

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