The Top 10 Small Business Grants Open to Canadians

Business Analytics

Unfortunately, the worldwide pandemic has caused many people to be laid off, or to lose their jobs entirely. This has left thousands of Canadians feeling insecure about their finances.  Due to this, many citizens now choose to purchase items based on low costs, forgo enrolling in their regular memberships, and stay home from their usual activities to save money. But where does that leave countless small businesses in Canada that are struggling to stay afloat?

“Small businesses are the backbone of our communities, and they must be supported.”
– Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada

As we face economic difficulties, we must remember that Canadian small businesses are vital for our families and communities across the country. With that in mind, the Government of Canada continues to implement government grants to support small businesses so that they may continue to make our country strong. This is especially important during crucial times where individuals may not feel financially confident to continue their regular spending habits, but they do not want to see their favourite shops and spots close.

Discover the Top 10 Small Business Government Grants

Distributed to small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) via the Government of Canada, these grant programs are currently available to various SME business types across the country. Discover how these non-repayable grants can help your business with recovery, innovation, growth, and stability.

CanExport Program

The CanExport Program provides support for export marketing and international expansion activities. This program is currently undergoing temporary changes due to COVID-19. The program helps exporters improve their sales and brand exposure in international markets through trade shows and marketing activities, packaging modifications, and market research.

  • Amount: Up to 75% of project costs to a maximum $75,000 in non-repayable grant funding per project. Up to two applications can be submitted per government fiscal year (April 1 to March 31).
  • Eligibility: Be a for-profit incorporated federally or classified as a limited liability partnership (LLP), earn annual revenues ranging from $100,000 to $100,000,000, maintain 1 to 500 full-time employees, create eligible project expenses of $20,000 or more, and be financially stable and able to pay all project expenses not covered by the program.

Canada Job Grant (CJG)

The Canada Job Grant is a Canadian government funding program designed to reduce the costs of providing third-party skills training to new and existing employees. It is available across Canada, with each province and territory responsible for co-branding and developing a system that’s suited towards its workforce and business makeup.

  • Amount: Non-repayable grant contributions of 50-100% of training costs (i.e. course, exams, textbooks, software resources, etc.) to a maximum $5,000 to $15,000 per trainee.
  • Eligibility: Canadian SME with $2M liability insurance. Trainees must be a permanent Canadian citizen or granted refugee status.

Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters Technology Assessment Program (CME TAP)

The Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters Technology Assessment Program (CME TAP) supports manufacturers in southern Ontario looking to improve their systems, processes, and equipment by having a third-party technology assessment find bottlenecks and areas for improvement in their business.

  • Amount: Up to 100% of assessment costs up to a $25,000 grant.
  • Eligibility: Manufacturers with 16-499 full-time employees within southern Ontario, financially stable, incorporated for 2+ years, and not receiving contributions towards the activities from other government funding.

Innovative Solutions Canada (ISC)

ISC provides government grants and procurement contracts to stimulate technology research, development, and commercialization. The program helps startups and small/medium-sized businesses (SMEs) overcome technology development hurdles so that they can produce globally-demanded products and services, while also improving government operations.

  • Amount: Phase 1: Grants up to $150k; Phase 2: Grants up to $1M; Phase 3: Government procurement contracts with no fixed maximum.
  • Eligibility: For-profit, privately held Canadian businesses with fewer than 499 FTE employees.

Industrial Research Assistance Program (IRAP)

The Industrial Research Assistance Program offers funding for technical or research-oriented projects to solve an internal innovation challenge. Funding supports software implementation, productivity improvements, and production design or marketing projects. Not suited for training projects.

  • Amount: Up to $10M non-repayable grant with 80% of direct labour and 50% of sub-contractor expenses.
  • Eligibility: Maintain 1-500 people on payroll, be 2 years incorporated with internal technical R&D expertise.

Next Generation Manufacturing Canada (NGen)

The NGen Manufacturing Program supports collaborative technology development and application projects that help Canadian manufacturing companies compete globally.

  • Amount: Offsets up to 44.4% of eligible project expenses. Project costs should be between $1M and $20M, providing non-repayable grant funding of approximately $444,000 to $8,880,000.
  • Eligibility: Open to all industries and sectors. Must have a minimum of three private-sector project partners; lead partner and participants must be NGen members.

Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) Alliance

The NSERC Alliance Program supports 1-5 year research projects performed collaboratively between a Canadian university and innovation partner. Administered by Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), Alliance grants are not awarded directly to the partner, and instead directly offset a portion of university research fees to reduce the contributions required from a participating organization.

  • Amount: Up to 66% (SMEs) or up to 50% (large businesses) to a maximum $1 million/project/year OR Up to 90%-100% of eligible project costs to a maximum of $100,000/year.
  • Eligibility: Public, private, and non-profit organizations that can collaborate on research activities, use the project’s research results and achieve its desired outcomes, and mobilize the research findings upon project completion.

Ontario Creates’ Interactive Digital Media Fund (IDMF)

The Interactive Digital Media Fund (IDMF) is an Ontario government grant that offsets a portion of costs directly related to concept definition and production projects. Through this program, digital media developers can leverage government funding to accelerate their growth.

  • Amount: Up to 50% of expenses to a maximum $250,000 non-repayable grant.
  • Eligibility: Be based in Ontario and Canadian-owned, have at least one owner or full-time employee with a minimum 3 years of experience in the creation or distribution of interactive digital media content, and be in a stable financial situation and have financial documentation to support claims.

Strategic Innovation Fund (SIF)

The Strategic Innovation Fund (SIF) is a Canadian government funding program that provides support for technology development and productivity-boosting projects. It promotes large-scale investments in Canada, while also encouraging technology transfer and development/commercialization of disruptive products and services.

  • Amount: Reduces eligible project costs by up to 50% with government grants.
  • Eligibility: SIF Business Eligibility for Streams 1-3: Small, medium, and large businesses incorporated pursuant to the laws of Canada, who propose to do business in Canada and execute their project within the country. SIF Organization Eligibility for Stream 4: Consortiums including Canadian post-secondary institutions, research institutes, for-profit businesses, and non-profit organizations. SIF Organization Eligibility for Stream 5: Lead applicant must be a Canadian business or non-profit. Lead applicants must develop an innovation network with businesses, non-profits, industry associations, and/or academia.

Southwestern/Eastern Ontario Development Fund (SWODF/EODF)

The Southwestern Ontario Development Fund (SWODF) and the Eastern Ontario Development Fund (EODF) are business expansion funding programs that incentivize companies to invest in new facilities and equipment. The programs attract SME and large-scale projects that have a significant impact on business productivity and create new employment opportunities within a company. Through the programs, successful applicants will receive grants or a combination of grants and repayable funding (government loans) to offset project costs.

  • Amount: Up to 15% of project expenses to a maximum of $500,000-$5,000,000.
  • Eligibility: Applicants must have been established for at least 3 years, have 10 or more full-time employees (5 FTE in rural communities), commit to creating at least 5 new jobs, and be located in southwestern/eastern Ontario.

Hiring Grants

Along with the top 10 programs listed, there are also numerous hiring grants available across Canada to help with the onboarding and training of new employees. Funding is typically quantified by the type of candidate hired and how long the contract will be; less funding is available to hire interns while more funding is available to support recent graduates.

  • Amount: Depends on candidate type. Interns/Co-op students may help a business leverage an incentive of $5,000 to $7,000 per incremental new hire. Recent graduates may help a business leverage an incentive of $12,000 to $15,000 per new hire.
  • Eligibility: Canadian for-profits and non-profits with the capacity to provide meaningful work experiences in an industry field. Candidates should be in (or recently graduated from) a business or educational program.

Leverage Tax Credits With the Scientific Research and Experimental Development (SR&ED) Program

Although many government grant and loan programs require certain eligibility criteria that disqualifies a lot of Canadian small businesses, the Scientific Research and Experimental Development (SR&ED) tax credit is a great incentive program that many small businesses may qualify for.

Applicants must be operating either basic research, applied research, or experimental development in Canada and be developing new products, processes or making incremental improvements to them.

Learn More about Small Business Government Grants and How to Apply

This list of Canadian government grants is intended for small to medium-sized businesses that have been incorporated for at least 3 years, create at least $500,000 in annual revenue, have 15 or more employees, and perform research and development or produce a product in Canada.  If you do not meet these qualifications, please visit our source for Canadian Startup Business Resources.

Looking to get started on accessing small business government grants? Connect with a member of the Mentor Works team to learn which grant could be the best fit for your business, and make sure to subscribe to our Weekly Funding Newsletter to stay informed on the latest government funding news and updates.

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