Strategic Innovation Fund: National Ecosystems

Since its launch in 2017, Canada’s Strategic Innovation Fund (SIF) has undergone several enhancements to support investments in advanced technology. This includes the launch of a fourth funding stream, Research Consortiums and Networks and more recently, the launch of a fifth stream called “National Ecosystems.” Unlike SIF’s fourth stream, which typically supports targeted calls for proposals, SIF’s fifth stream supports a wide range of collaborative technology development partnerships led by Canadian businesses and non-profits.

Like other streams of the Strategic Innovation Fund, Stream 5 provides up to 50% of eligible project costs with conditionally repayable contributions starting at $10 million.

Another difference between SIF Stream 4 and Stream 5 is that the new National Ecosystems stream offers a continuous intake of innovation funding applications. Pre-established technology development collaborations should apply for funding prior to initiating collaborative activities. Successfully funded projects can span up to five years in duration.

What is Strategic Innovation Fund: National Ecosystems (Stream 5)?

The Strategic Innovation Fund (SIF) is a suite of Canadian government funding programs designed to help businesses drive investments into cutting-edge technologies. This includes researching, developing, adopting, adapting, and commercializing innovations that have the potential to transform Canadian industries to make them more productive and globally competitive.

SIF’s fifth stream, “National Ecosystems,” is the latest addition to this suite and is specifically focused on industry-driven technology development networks. Unlike Stream 4, which focuses on targeted calls for proposals, SIF Stream 5 seeks to spur technology partnerships based on an industry-led approach. This is designed to strengthen pathways to commercialization, with many businesses and supporting partners working together to develop superior products or processes.

Industry-led innovation ecosystems can access up to 50% of eligible project costs through SIF Stream 5. Conditionally-repayable contributions start at $10 million and scale up as needed.

Another way to understand SIF Stream 5 is to consider the Innovation Superclusters Initiative (ISI) program. ISI was a government funding program that developed five Canada-wide, industry-led technology collaboration organizations. Some industries were not supported through this program, however, and the Strategic Innovation Fund: National Ecosystems stream provides similar support.

Since the Strategic Innovation Fund’s National Ecosystems stream focuses on collaborations, project strength is largely evaluated on the applicant, key partners involved in the collaboration, and the project’s technological focus/impacts. Companies positioning themselves as the lead applicant for a SIF Stream 5 project should focus their pre-application efforts on establishing technology development partnerships with other interested organizations. Developing these relationships early is essential because applicants are asked about project collaborators during each of the two application phases.

Applicants Eligible: National Ecosystems Innovation Funding

To qualify for the Strategic Innovation Fund: National Ecosystems (SIF Stream 5), lead applicants must:

  • Be a Canadian business or non-profit organization; and
  • Develop a research partnership with Canadian businesses, non-profits, industry associations, or academia.

Projects Eligible for SIF: National Ecosystems Funding

Projects ideally positioned to receive Strategic Innovation Fund: National Ecosystems funding:

  • Focus on collaborative R&D to accelerate a technological advantage to commercialization;
  • Target technologies and sectors where Canadian firms have significant opportunity;
  • Should result in the identified sector’s domestic and export growth; and
  • Can consist of activities with technology readiness levels (TRL) from 1-9; however, a strong emphasis is placed on later stages of technology development to accelerate commercialization.

Apply for the Strategic Innovation Fund National Ecosystems Stream

Like other streams of the Strategic Innovation Fund, the National Ecosystems stream maintains a two-stage application process that includes a Statement of Interest (SOI) and, if called forward, a full application. Each review stage requires the lead applicant to thoroughly review their collaborative network, technology development project(s) identified, and the project’s implications to Canadian sectors.

Applications are submitted and reviewed on a continuous basis. Canadian businesses with an eligible innovation network and project should consider applying as soon as possible since the review and approvals process can take months to complete.

To explore your eligibility for collaborative technology development funding and identify support options to optimize the application process, please contact Mentor Works.

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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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