Colleges and universities play a key role in driving innovation and entrepreneurship across Ontario. As a launchpad for tomorrow’s business leaders, these institutions promote leading-edge research and supporting young entrepreneurs who wish to transform new ideas into a sustainable business. However, young entrepreneurs often struggle to scale-up these post-secondary businesses post-graduation and much of their intellectual property (IP) goes unrealized.
This is why government grants such as the OCE Market Readiness Program have been developed. The OCE Market Readiness Program offers Ontario government grants to scale-up an innovative academic spinoff business through its customer creation and company building stages. During this time, businesses will be able to reduce the cost of initializing and growing a sustainable revenue model.
Post-secondary spinoff companies may receive up to 50% of project costs to a maximum $125,000-$250,000 in Ontario small business grants.
Eligible tech startups may apply for the program throughout the year since there is an open call for applications; however, submissions are generally reviewed on an 8-week basis. Applicants should apply early in the Customer Creation phase to maximize the value of funding received.
OCE Market Readiness Program: Seed Funding for University Spinoff Businesses
Commercialization of university and college-based research can be difficult for recent graduates. Yet, in a time where academic spinoffs are producing the world’s top technology companies, there has never been more incentive to do so. There are significant opportunities to develop a sustainable business from post-secondary research; these can be fueled through the Ontario Centre of Excellence’s new OCE Market Readiness Program.
The OCE Market Readiness Program offers Ontario-based academic spinoff businesses with the funding needed to develop a scalable, sustainable tech startup. Entrepreneurs must use the program to commercialize IP and use it to achieve a competitive advantage over current market solutions.
Through the OCE Market Readiness program, participants will be able to secure small business grants to grow customer demand and build a robust pipeline of deals. This will be achieved through two unique project streams:
Market Readiness Customer Creation (MRCC)
Tech startups who’ve received preliminary technology validation should begin focusing on establishing a sales pipeline. Generating revenue is essential for maintaining cash flows and scaling-up effectively; implementing repeatable sales processes will improve forecasting and enable a smooth and steady growth model.
Through the Market Readiness and Customer Creation program, technology innovators may receive funding to develop an initial sales pipeline. This includes projects that increase demand for the technology and grows its customer base.
- Amount: Up to 50% in small business grants to a maximum $125,000. Lifetime Market Readiness program maximum of $375,000.
- Eligible Projects: Website development, trade shows, and marketing material development.
Market Readiness Customer Building (MRCB)
Once a small pipeline of deals has been created, early-stage tech companies can focus on growing and stabilizing it. This requires the standardization of marketing and sales processes to develop a cohesive and powerful selling proposition. At this stage, startups should begin executing a validated model to achieve sustainability.
Through the Market Readiness and Customer Building program, technology innovators may receive funding to develop managerial talent and refine internal processes. This includes projects that prepare the company for long-term success and prosperity.
- Amount: Up to 50% in small business grants to a maximum $250,000. Lifetime Market Readiness program maximum of $375,000.
- Eligible Projects: Employee training and business consulting.
Applicants Eligible for OCE Market Readiness Funding
The OCE Market Readiness program offers funding for Ontario-based technology or innovation startups with a market opportunity totaling $50 million or greater. Applicants must be incorporated for fewer than five years, be post-validation at the time of application, and have received less than $500k (Customer Creation) or $1M (Customer Building) in third-party investment.
In addition, all companies must either:
- Be an academic spinoff initiated at an Ontario-based university, college, or research hospital;
- Have participated (for a minimum four months) in an OCE startup incubator, such as the Campus-Linked Accelerator (CLA)or On-Campus Entrepreneurship Activities (OCEA) within the last three years; or
- Have received a SmartStart Seed Fund award through their affiliation with a Regional Innovation Centre (RIC).
How to Apply for OCE’s Market Readiness Program
To apply for the OCE Market Readiness Program, entrepreneurs must work with an OCE Business Development Manager who will determine the company’s eligibility and help to initialize the process. Applications are accepted on a continuous basis and are typically reviewed within 6-8 weeks. During this process, a review panel will make recommendations on the strengths and weaknesses of each application. OCE uses these recommendations to determine the businesses with the most potential for funding.
To discuss how the Market Readiness program can be used as part of your company’s government funding strategy, please contact Mentor Works.