The Government of Canada recently expanded the scope of several of its most popular innovation funds and combined them into one broader program to help fuel this potential for innovation within Canadian businesses and organizations. The new Strategic Innovation Fund (SIF) will provide up to $1.26 billion in funding over the next five years to support the improvement and advancement of products, processes, and services provided by Canadian businesses.
The Strategic Innovation Fund will play a critical role in driving Canada’s industrial and technology-driven sector growth. Launched in July 2017, the program focuses on accelerating innovative, business expansion projects which bring benefits to the company, as well as help secure competitiveness in both regional and national economies. It offers four streams of funding support, covering a diverse range of projects, from research and development to facility expansions, and collaborations with Canadian academic institutions.
The Strategic Innovation Fund provides Canadian government funding to reduce project costs by up to 50%; this will help Canadian businesses improve productivity and innovation.
Businesses may apply for funding year-round for most projects; however, collaborations with academic researchers may only submit funding applications during scheduled intake periods. Most projects undergo a two-stage application process before being approved for funding; review times generally depend on the nature of project and amount of funding requested.
Strategic Innovation Fund: How the Program Works
The Strategic Innovation Fund is a Canadian government funding program uniquely targeted at Canada’s industrial and technology sectors. It offers financial contributions (both repayable and non-repayable) valued up to 50% of project costs, with the purpose of promoting investment into the types of activities which drive sustained productivity and economic benefits. The amount and type of financial support offered by SIF will be allocated on a case-by-case basis, as determined by the funding application review committee.
The program offers four streams of project funding, including Canadian government funding for:
1. Research, Development, and Commercialization
This stream offers funding for the research, development, and market commercialization of innovative technologies. All activities performed must focus on progressing the innovation’s development, which may have a current technology readiness level (TRL) of 1-9. Projects may include (but are not limited to):
- Researching and testing the market potential of an early concept or finding;
- Adapting research for commercial applications with the potential for market disruption;
- Improving processes (by using new technology) to reduce the environmental footprint of production; and
- Improving current products/processes by implementing new technologies that enhance competitive capabilities.
2. Business Growth and Expansion
Stream two of the Strategic Innovation Fund provides innovation funding for the expansion and material improvement of existing industrial or technological facilities. Activities should be aimed at increasing productivity and efficiencies, ultimately leading to higher competitiveness. At this stage, businesses should have well-developed products and processes and be performing activities within a TRL of 8-9. Projects may include (but are not limited to):
- Increasing production capacity to meet a demonstrated market demand; and
- Improving manufacturing efficiency through improvements to plant, equipment, or processes.
3. Investment Attraction and Retention
The third stream of SIF offers support for new investments in Canadian industrial or technological facilities. The main objective is to support large-scale investments that may have not otherwise been made in Canada, and will be used to support the continued development of Canada’s most innovative businesses. Companies must achieve a TRL of 2 or higher to apply; projects may include (but are not limited to):
- Establishing a new production facility which did not previously exist in Canada;
- Receiving a research and development mandate which is being established for the first time, or was previously held outside Canada; and
- Obtaining a production mandate for products being produced for the first time, or previously produced outside Canada.
4. Collaborative Technology Development and Demonstration
The fourth and final Strategic Innovation Fund stream supports collaborative research, including activities related to the discovery or demonstration of new knowledge. In partnership with academic institutions and non-profits, the stream will provide funding for new technology-driven products, processes or services at a technology readiness level of 1-7. Projects may include (but are not limited to):
- Developing and demonstrating pre-commercial technologies; and
- Advancing new technologies into product-specific applications.
Do You Qualify for the Strategic Innovation Fund?
The Strategic Innovation Fund was developed to be inclusive towards a wide range of Canada’s industrial and technology-driven sectors. While an assortment of businesses will be eligible, funding will only be awarded to firms demonstrating strong project performance metrics. All projects must clearly demonstrate how the funding will be used to generate sustainable benefits to a broad range of stakeholders.
Overall eligibility, in addition to whether funding is repayable or non-repayable, is determined by the program’s application review committee.
SIF Applicant Eligibility
To be deemed eligible for streams 1, 2, or 3 of the Strategic Innovation Fund, businesses must be:
- A small, medium, or large company;
- Incorporated; and
- Operating within Canada.
To be deemed eligible for stream 4 in the Strategic Innovation Fund, applicants must be a consortium including:
- Canadian universities, colleges, research institutes;
- For-profit corporations (including SMEs); and/or
- Not-for-profit entities.
How to Apply for the Strategic Innovation Fund
To apply for streams 1, 2, or 3 of the Strategic Innovation Fund, businesses must complete a two-stage application process, however, applications may be submitted year-round. To get started, companies must submit a Statement of Interest (SOI) to propose their project concept.
If approved, applicants will be invited to submit a full application which will then be reviewed for due diligence and a benefits/contribution assessment. Being accepted to the full application stage does not guarantee innovation funding; each application is critical to ensuring funding success.
To apply for stream 4 of the Strategic Innovation Fund, consortiums must apply during a single annual intake period. Consortiums must also follow a two-step application process including a Statement of Interest (SOI) and due diligence assessment. A pool of potential projects will be identified after stage two, at which point a final decision will be made by the Minister of Innovation, Science, and Economic Development.
How are SIF Applications Evaluated?
Applications will be evaluated based on four main criteria, including:
- Innovation Benefits: How well the project contributes towards the enhancement/development of new innovations. This includes potential spill-over benefits, creation of intellectual property, and impact on productivity.
- Economic Benefits: How well the project impacts growth of Canadian firms, clusters and supply chains, as well as its expected benefits for Canada’s workforce. This includes number of jobs created, number of high-paying jobs, and project-related revenue growth.
- Public Benefits: How well the project contributes to the broader public, such as inclusive business and hiring practices, investment in skills and training and environmental best-practices.
- Applicant Capacity: How well the business can accomplish the objectives set out through the project. This includes management and workforce capability, corporate
technical capability, financial stability and capacity, and market risk.
Get Started with the Strategic Innovation Fund
There is a two-stage application process for the Strategic Innovation Fund that requires:
- Statement of Interest: A high-level overview of projects. Here, applicants can describe the project and explain how it meets SIF’s objectives. Applicants are also asked to provide corporate information so that basic corporate capability assessments can be completed.
- Full Application: If advancing to step 2 is advisable, applicants will be contacted and invited to submit a detailed project application. This information is used to complete a due diligence and benefits assessment.
Interested businesses may contact Mentor Works to learn more about the Strategic Innovation Fund. Our team of Government Funding Planners™ can provide insight into the program, including confirming business eligibility and how to accelerate the application process.
Connect with us to discover how Strategic Innovation Fund technology funding can improve your firm’s competitiveness.