Managing a new project for your business can be headache-inducing. Whether the project involves installing new equipment, hiring several co-op students, completing research and development for a new process or product, or attending international tradeshows, you need multiple resources—time, people, money—to come together for you to reach your end goals.
Often what happens in the early days of project planning is that a business identifies a need for a project, makes a case for it, and examines probable costs. In the latter step, particularly at small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), management may consider internal cash flows and bank loans; however, it may miss out on applying for government funding to assist with project costs.
The potential business funding from government programs can be significant—from thousands to millions of dollars—and can make the difference between a successful and an unsuccessful project.
Some organizational leaders may simply not be aware of existing government funding programs, but others may refrain from applying due to the sheer number of possible programs, the uncertainty of eligibility, and the trickiness of knowing when to apply. By the time a business owner discovers a suitable funding program, project spending might be well underway, and it could be too late.
Missing Out on Canadian Government Funding Due to Timing
The challenge of timing in relation to government funding has to do in part with program variety: programs may be federal, such as NRC-IRAP, or provincial, such as the BC Rural Dividend Fund, making it difficult to track and differentiate between eligibility criteria, application processes, and due dates for different grants. Programs also present a wide range of approval timelines.
Some smaller programs that offset costs of hiring recent grads, for example, may be approved within a few days.
Other programs that fund massive capital equipment investments and business expansion may take over a year or more to be approved. Additionally, programs can have dated or continuous intake—that is, they may accept applications for a fixed period (sometimes only a few weeks) or at any time across several years.
Contributing to this potential confusion for business owners is the issue of retroactive spending. A few government funding programs will approve costs that were incurred before an application was submitted, but many do not. Moreover, some programs will cover deposits (on equipment or tradeshow booths, for example) incurred prior to approval, but others do not. Therefore, if a company has already begun project spending, those costs might not be eligible for coverage under SME grant funding.
Government Funding Applications: Be Proactive to Cover Costs
A Proactive Funding Plan is often the best approach to secure SME grant funding. When you are identifying your company’s goals over the next year or two and planning what investments you will need to support them, you can consider at the same time your government funding options.
For instance, let’s say you are an automotive manufacturer with a major piece of equipment at the end of its life. If you know that next year you will need to replace the machinery with more innovative technology, it’s not too early to start thinking about when to apply to government programs to help offset costs.
Similarly, if you are a pharmaceutical company planning your tradeshow attendances over the course of the next year, you can start looking at funding from programs such as CanExport several months in advance.
Is it Ever too Early to Apply for Government Grants?
If most of your project is already complete, it is likely too late to apply for government funding. But is it ever too early to apply?
Considering government funding as part of your ongoing strategy is smart, but there are times when it may be too early to submit an application—such as when a program hasn’t yet opened, or is waiting for a top-up of funding before it can start considering proposals.
Sometimes, it may also not be the right time for your business to apply for government grants. If you’re not entirely sure whether you need to do a project, or if you don’t have your equipment or training vendors lined up, for example, you can keep government funding in mind, but may not be able to submit a government funding application just yet.
Organizations that are new to government funding may want to gather information about the best programs for their industry. Business consultants can help firms understand timelines for applications, as well as eligibility criteria, and they can also alert management teams when new programs open.
Learn how to use Canadian government funding as part of a comprehensive business funding strategy. Understand when to apply for government funding to receive more grants, loans, and tax incentives for strategic projects. Download the When to Apply for Government Funding slide deck.