Export Market Access Trade Show Grants Ontario

Please Note: Export Market Access is now closed and not accepting further applications. For trade show grants and other forms of export support, learn more about the CanExport program.

Export Market Access (EMA) is an Ontario government grant designed to help small and medium-sized businesses reach and expand international markets. The program reduces costs commonly incurred while participating in international trade shows, thereby lowering the risk of export development projects. Companies can submit multiple applications per year, with each application supporting a maximum three export events.

Successful applicants may receive up to $50,000 in export marketing grants per application. Companies can submit two applications per year.

This article explores questions we’re frequently asked about Export Market Access, including general program information, eligibility criteria, and how to apply. For a more general summary of the program, please refer to our Export Market Access Overview blog.

About the Export Market Access Funding Program

Export Market Access (EMA) Export Grants Ontario

What is Export Market Access?

The Export Market Access program is designed to support Ontario-based SMEs as they evaluate and grow export markets. Although these export development projects are often considered “too risky” for smaller firms, receiving government grants can help reduce risk and improve return-on-investment. Companies apply for EMA grants to access markets with recognized opportunities and receive funding to perform export marketing projects.

What type of funding does Export Market Access offer?

EMA export funding is awarded as an Ontario government grant. After approval into the program, companies track project-related expenses and submit them for reimbursement. Applicants receive non-repayable contributions once their claims have been processed by the government.

How much export funding is available?

Ontario businesses can receive up to $50,000 in funding per application and can apply twice per year for an annual maximum of $100,000. Applicants can receive a lifetime maximum of $250,000 in export development grants, at which time other export funding programs may assist to reduce trade show expenses.

SMEs should expect to receive up to 50% of eligible expenses to be covered through the program. To qualify for EMA grants, applicants must have the capacity to support the other 50%+ of project expenses.

Can EMA grants be combined with other funding programs?

Typically, Export Market Access cannot be stacked with other government funding programs. Although other programs can be used to support overall business expansion, companies cannot use other government funding programs to cover the same expenses sent to EMA for reimbursement.

How many markets and trade shows can be included per application?

EMA can support up to three trade shows or export activities per application. To maximize the potential of an application, consider participating in multiple trade shows in your target market. Up to two markets can be included per application; this gives companies significant opportunities to penetrate international regions with high growth potential.

Who administers the Export Market Access program?

Export Market Access is funded by the Government of Ontario and administered through the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC). The program was enhanced in 2018 to merge with the former Early Stage Exporters program, which was also administered by OCC.

How to Qualify for Export Market Access Funding

What businesses are eligible for Export Market Access funding?

To qualify for Export Market Access grants, applicants must:

  • Employ between 3-500 full-time workers;
  • Earn at least $300,000 in annual revenues;
  • Be incorporated for at least two years;

  • Produce export-ready products and services;
  • Have capacity to meet foreign demand; and
  • Have at least $2M in commercial general liability insurance.

What types of projects are supported by Export Market Access?

There are five categories of export development projects supported through EMA funding. They include:

  • Establishing Direct Contacts: Participating in international trade shows, exhibitions, and outgoing trade missions led by the provincial or federal government.
  • Performing Market Research: Building competitive intelligence to target a given market more precisely. This could include exploring market size, growth rates, buying trends, and distribution channels.
  • Developing Marketing Tools: Translation and development of marketing materials to increase awareness of business in a foreign market.
  • Upgrading E-Commerce: To facilitate trade with the target market.
  • Securing Temporary In-Market Office Space: To further business relationships.

What trade shows and export events can I attend to access funding?

Through a single Export Market Access application, companies can participate in up to three trade shows or export events. These events should provide a strategic benefit, such as expansion of the company’s target market or development of new markets. If attending trade shows, your company must exhibit, however; businesses cannot receive funding to walk the floor of international trade events.

Are there any export markets where activities are not supported?

EMA does not restrict funding for any specific export markets; this enables business leaders to plan where their greatest export potential is, and then capitalize. Other export-related funding programs have restrictions on markets based on current export activity there, but EMA funding is extremely flexible and is an appropriate choice for all markets.

What expenses are eligible for Export Market Access?

Export Market Access covers eligible project costs incurred after application approval except for booth registration costs, as well as registration fees for Ontario Government-led trade missions. For these two cost categories, payment prior to your application’s approval can still be covered for funding, given there are receipts or other documentation to verify the expense.

Other expenses offset through EMA export development grants include:

  • Establishing direct contacts;
  • Developing marketing tools and materials;
  • Performing market research;
  • Accessing in-market office space;
  • Upgrading e-commerce capabilities;
  • Bidding on foreign projects; and
  • Receiving product certification to support exports.

How to Apply for Export Market Access

What information is required for Export Market Access applications?

To apply for Export Market Access, companies must develop a comprehensive application package that consists of a background on the company and its export history, opportunities and market strategies for new market(s), professionally-reviewed financial statements from the past two years (at minimum), and an insurance policy with commercial general liability with at least $2 million in coverage per occurrence.

How are EMA applications assessed?

EMA applications are reviewed by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) based on:

  • Eligibility of activities and expenses for funding;
  • Rationale of how proposed activities support EMA’s objectives;
  • Financial and management capability/capacity of the applicant;
  • Level of funding requested in relation to the project’s performance; and
  • Validation of expected results and outcomes (what are the measurements, how will these be measured, and what performance indicators will be used).

Is there a deadline to apply for the EMA funding program?

Export Market Access maintains an open application process where companies can apply year-round. Because there is no formal deadline for the program, applicants should instead consider their project’s timelines and apply when it makes most sense.

How long does it take for Export Market Access applications to be reviewed?

Ideally, applicants should submit their proposal to the program no sooner than six to eight weeks before their international event takes place; this allows for the review process and decreases the likelihood of some expenses being ineligible.

What are Export Market Access’ reporting requirements?

To complete the reporting process and close-out a project, companies must submit a financial report with proof of expenses, such as receipts, invoices, credit card statements, wire transfers, and purchase orders. This final report triggers any remaining funding contribution outstanding and enables the company to submit another funding application for new future events.

To discuss your suitability for the Export Market Access program and learn how to optimize the application process, please contact Mentor Works.

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Written by

Jeff 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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