Canada Media Fund Experimental Stream Updates

The Canada Media Fund (CMF) is a non-profit organization that administers Canadian government funding to traditional and interactive digital media developers. CMF offers many types of repayable/recoupable funding programs including the Experimental Stream, which is specifically targeted towards software and game developers working on interactive digital media products.

CMF’s Experimental Stream – Innovation Program can award companies with up to 50-75% of project costs to a maximum of $250k-$1.5M in digital media funding.

Those who’ve previously used CMF’s Experimental Stream – Innovation Program funding should note that recent changes have slightly modified the way that the program operates. Included in these updates are an expansion to the program’s maximum funding amount per project, changes to how the word “innovation” is defined, combination of the Production and Marketing & Promotion funding stages, and introduction of a new Conceptualization program.

What is the Canada Media Fund: Experimental Stream?

The Canada Media Fund: Experimental Stream is a suite of Canadian government funding programs designed to drive innovative software and interactive digital media development projects. Included in this umbrella of funding is the Conceptualization Program, which supports proof-of-concept testing costs, the Prototyping Program, which offsets the costs of experimenting, testing and validating different concepts to arrive at a first functional prototype, and the Innovation Program, which supports media research development and limited promotional costs. Together, these three programs can provide funding throughout all stages of interactive digital media development and commercialization.

Software and interactive digital media projects may receive up to $1.5 million in support through one or multiple programs offered through the Canada Media Fund.

Each program can be accessed independently, or through a graduated approach where interactive digital media developers first access CMF funding for Conceptualization, then Prototyping, then Innovation (production and promotion). Through this comprehensive approach to the media development process, it’s expected that software and game developers create and profit from more innovative projects. Each program must be applied to through specific deadlines that are unique to each stream. It’s best to plan your application well in advance of funding deadlines to ensure your project is evaluated during the next review process.

What’s Changed in the 2019 CMF Experimental Program Guideline?

There have been considerable changes to the Canada Media Fund: Experimental Stream over the last year. Beginning in 2019-2020, CMF funding will abide by new structures and regulations, including:

Combination of Production and Marketing & Promotion Funding Streams

Previously, “Production” and “Marketing & Promotion” were separate streams of funding offered through the Canada Media Fund: Experimental Stream. This meant that applicants had to complete two applications to receive both types of support for a single project. Both streams have now been merged into one where applicants receiving funding for production must devote a minimum percentage of eligible project costs towards marketing and promotional activities.

For a limited time, CMF will continue providing Marketing & Promotion support to those who’ve completed production projects in the past. This pool of funding is likely to only span one or two intakes, so if you’re working on a Production project and require support for Marketing projects, it’s advised to apply for funding as soon as possible.

Expansion of Production-Stage Funding and Multi-Phase Project Funding

Merging the Production and Marketing & Promotion streams into one program has led CMF to increase its maximum support for any single project. Previously, companies could receive support of up to 60% of eligible project costs to a maximum $1.2 million. Under the new program guidelines, projects may receive up to 75% of eligible project expenses to a maximum $1.5 million. This is a combined total that applied to all of CMF’s Experimental Stream programs.

New Funding Stream: Conceptualization

Previously, CMF funding could support projects starting in their Prototype phase. Feedback gathered by CMF suggested that earlier-stage funding would be beneficial to give projects a better chance to succeed and access future stages of financing, which is why a new “Conceptualization” stream has been created. While the overall program maximum (up to 75%/ $1.5 million) still applies to this stream if used in conjunction with other stages of funding, the maximum amount a company can receive for a single Conceptualization project is $15,000.

Expansion and Isolation of Prototyping Projects

Prototyping project funding was historically grouped into CMF Experimental’s Innovation Program, along with two other streams – Production and Marketing & Promotion. These three streams are no longer considered part of the “Innovation Program” and instead are being used as independent government funding mechanisms.

This has meant that Prototyping project support can be applied more widely, including to non-interactive digital media (“Convergent”) projects. Traditional film and television media projects can now use the Prototyping stream for enhanced support.

Changes to the Term “Innovation”

Previously, CMF used a descending scale to illustrate degrees of innovation. It specified that revolutionary projects had the greatest likelihood of receiving funding while projects that focused on iterations of past projects had the lowest likelihood.

Now, CMF does not define or delimit what is innovative, and instead recognizes that innovation can include both breakthrough, novel, and revolutionary content/technology and the intelligent re-imagination, reworking, or extension of existing content/technology.

Next Steps: Navigate the CMF Funding Landscape

Like many other Canadian government funding programs, the Canada Media Fund: Experimental Stream is constantly evolving to offer enhanced support to businesses. While changes like the ones mentioned in this article are often seen as a good thing, it can be confusing for businesses to keep up and maintain a working knowledge of funding programs. Receiving support throughout the application planning, development, and submission process can lead to enhanced funding outcomes with significantly less work required from your team.

Explore how your company can reduce the time commitment needed to access government funding programs by downloading the free Navigating the Government Funding Process slide deck.

Navigating the Canadian Government Funding Process

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Written by

Jeff Shepherd holds an Honours Bachelor of Business Administration at the University of Guelph. He is passionate about Canadian business, economics, and politics. As Marketing Coordinator for Mentor Works, Jeff educates business leaders about proactive funding strategies.

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