What are the top 11 financial support programs available to tech entrepreneurs in Alberta?

Jean Chung

Jean Chung

MBA, CGA, CPA

Starting a business can be quite challenging, and fortunately, there are financial support programs to relieve some of the burdens. If you just started your tech startup or have run it for a few years, you may be eligible for a wide range of financial support, either from the Provincial government or the Federal government. 

Grants have the advantage over venture capital funding, which requires giving up equity shares in your business. Equity is a very expensive way of getting financing. We are going to look at the top 11 financial support programs that your Alberta technology-focused business can benefit from. Some of them are quite generous in terms of what they offer, and they all have their own eligibility criteria. In most cases, they are non repayable, so they are free cash for your venture. So why not take a crack at them?

1. IRAP 

The Industrial Research Assistance Program (IRAP) is aimed at accelerating the R&D projects of Canadian entrepreneurs. It is administered by the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) and funded by the Government of Canada.

Therefore, it is available to businesses across Canada that are involved in the development and commercialization of technologically driven products, services, and processes. Technological progress can be new or improved, making it possible for more applicants to have the chance to receive grant funds.

Innovative businesses that are implementing process improvements are the primary targets to receive research funding grants. However, large-scale companies with wide-scale technology adoption are also in line to receive grants.

If you have a focus on a technology-driven business, then you should consider IRAP funding as a source of financing for your project. Funding is up to $50,000 for start-ups under the Accelerated Review Process stream. These are for R&D projects that are meant to resolve internal technical challenges. For you to be eligible to submit a funding proposal, there must be a certain element of uncertainty and risk, be incorporated, and have less than 500 employees. 

More funding is also available for larger projects through the Midsize Projects stream ($100K-$500K+). This stream caters more to larger R&D initiatives that lead to innovative product development projects.

A local industry technology advisor (ITA) will assess your business and project for funding based on your management team, the project’s technical aspect, financial strength, commercialization plan, and expected benefits for the country. Eligible businesses will be assigned to a specific stream based on the nature of the project and anticipated outcomes. More details are available on the IRAP website.

2. SR&ED

The SR&ED program encourages businesses of all sizes, particularly small and medium-sized businesses, to conduct research and development (R&D) that will lead to new, improved, or technologically advanced products, processes, devices, and materials. The SR&ED program is the largest tax incentive program in Canada and one of the most generous in the OECD countries.

The tax incentive can be in three different forms, including a tax deduction, a tax credit, or sometimes a refund. Companies are eligible to receive a refundable tax credit of up to 35% on the first $3M of their eligible expenditures and 15% of eligible expenditures over $3M.

The businesses that are offered tax incentives are corporations, trusts, and partnerships. Tax incentives are provided to businesses to foster innovation, technological advancements, discoveries, and creativity. These will lead to economic growth and the creation of jobs. 

Ultimately, they make Canada more competitive on a global scale. For more details on the SR&ED program and eligibility criteria, check out one of our previous articles here. If you are going to apply for SR&ED tax incentives, you should consult with an expert in that area to determine the eligibility of your claim.

3. Strategic Innovation Fund (SIF)

The Strategic Innovation Fund’s (SIF) goal is to foster innovation for a more technologically advanced Canada by providing funding for large projects, over $10M. It is funded by the Government of Canada and available to businesses from a wide range of sectors. 

The SIF looks to help businesses simplify and speed up processes and technology, and provide assistance that is focused on results. The SIF aims to support established businesses to invest, grow, and create jobs and prosperity for Canadians.

The Strategic Innovation Fund comes into four different streams, with each one focusing on a specific goal:

1. Encourages R&D that focuses on speeding of technology transfer, and the commercialization of new products, services, and processes.

2. Focuses on the growth and expansion of businesses across Canada.

3. Focuses on attracting and keeping large-scale investments in Canada.

4. Encourages the development of industrial R&D and technology through collaboration between the private sector and researchers.

4. Alberta Innovates Programs

Alberta Innovates’ goal is to provide access to research grants and other fiscal incentives to offset the costs of performing R&D. Currently, there are about 13 financial support programs provided through Alberta Innovates, and they all have the same aim of accelerating innovative projects to markets.

Alberta Innovates is a crown corporation and funded by the Alberta Government. It is the largest program in Alberta that is involved in fostering innovation. Its stated goals are to embrace the digital future, improve Alberta’s knowledge workforce, and spur emerging technologies. Some of the most common programs are the Alberta Innovates Voucher Program, the Export Readiness- Micro Vouchers program, the Alberta Entrepreneurship Incubator Program, and the Product Demonstration Program.

 The Alberta Innovates Voucher Program as its name implies is a voucher program that offsets a portion of costs related to technology development and building a working prototype. Businesses can use the voucher to pay service providers for their labor and materials. Vouchers can range from $10,000 to $100,000 to speed up the project.

Alberta Innovates also provides Export Readiness micro vouchers aimed at supporting small and medium-sized businesses to develop a strategic approach to their global markets. If you are planning to hire a service provider or consultant to help you enter international markets, then this program might be quite useful in supporting that initiative.

The Alberta Entrepreneurship Incubator Program offers financial support for individuals with innovative ideas to move their products to market. Recent grads, looking for employment, can also apply for these grants. Seed, bridge, and growth vouchers are available for businesses to hire product/service providers at different stages of their development.

The Product Demonstration Program provides financial support to those businesses that need to showcase a prototype in the marketplace. Funding of up to $150,000 is available to SMBs to enter into a partnership with a potential client to show the merit of their prototype. More details on the Alberta Innovates programs can be found here.

5. Canadian International Innovation Program (CIIP)

The Canadian International Innovation Program supports Canadian businesses to have partnership agreements or joint-ventures with a foreign partner on industrial R&D projects that have the potential for commercialization. Currently, partnerships can be struck with companies in Brazil, China, India, Israel, and South Korea. It can also boost the bilateral relationship with cross-border partnerships.

It is one thing to develop technologies, but it is another to commercialize them successfully. It is important for new technologies to find viable markets overseas, and sometimes this process is easier with foreign partners that already have a footprint in those markets.

Government grants through CIIP can reduce the financial burden of research projects. Technology companies can use CIIP to market their products globally by reaching out to international partners. The CIIP is funded by Global Affairs Canada in partnership with IRAP.

The Alberta government, through Alberta Innovates, has established similar programs for Alberta tech SMBs: the Global Partnership Programs. These programs are designed to help Alberta tech startups partner with companies in Mexico and China to develop and commercialize new technological solutions. More info is available here.

6. Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC)

The Sustainable Development Tech Fund support businesses that are looking to support the productivity and competitiveness of the green industry. Grants are available to businesses that have technologies focusing on the clean air, soil, water, energy, and climate change area.

What is unique about this fund is that grants are offered to projects that reach 4-6 milestones? As each milestone is reached, more funding is available. This is a program that is funded by the federal government and is available to businesses across Canada. This program helps environmental technologies to market faster and companies to scale faster. Funding is on average 33% of eligible costs, and average funding is $3M. Check out the details of the program here.

7. Agricultural Clean Technology (ACT)

This is another fund that supports the green industry by focusing on agriculture. The Agricultural Clean Technology (ACT) program provides support to R&D and the adoption of clean technologies by promoting precision agriculture and agriculture bio-products. 

Projects of up to $5M are eligible for funding from this fund. This fund is quite useful for Alberta businesses, given that agriculture is still such an important industry in the province in terms of job creation, contribution to the GDP, and tax revenue.

8. Canada Job Grant (CJG)

The Canada Job Grant is a federally funded program. It offers up to $10,000 toward training and developing your workforce. They can use the grant for hiring and training programs that develop skill-sets and improve employee productivity on the job. 

Each province has its own variant of this program and sets its own criteria for eligibility. In Alberta, for example, the grant is available up to 66% of the training costs to a maximum of $10,000 per trainee. The funding is to support businesses to hire and train in-demand skills for your employees. The training has to be conducted by an accredited institution such as SAIT or NAIT. More details for the provincial program are available here.

9. IRAP–Young Employment Strategy (YEP)

This program is designed to support businesses to hire young Canadian post-secondary graduates by covering their salaries. The aim is to help young Canadians develop their skills and find employment. Graduates that are eligible range from business development to technical to customer service.

Eligible companies can hire up to 2 graduates, each for 6-12 months period, and can receive up to $30,000 per graduate for a period of 6 to 12 months. Businesses will have to be incorporated, have less than 500 workers to be eligible, and recruits have to be between 15-30 years old. Check their website here.

10. Alberta Innovates Associates Programs

Besides the IRAP Youth Employment Program, the Alberta Government also offers two other financial support programs that help technology companies to hire young recruits.

Alberta Innovates’ Industry Commercialization Associates Program funds companies that hire an associate to perform technical commercialization activities. There is a monthly stipend plus an annual Expense Allowance of up to $7,000 to cover a portion of non-salary costs incurred by the researcher.

Alberta Innovates’ Industry R&D Associates Program is like the Commercialization Associates Program, but it focuses on the hiring of an associate to perform technical research and development activities. The monthly stipend is the same as for the Commercialization Associates Program ($7,000).

11. TECTERRA

TECTERRA is focused on the development and promotion of innovative geospatial technologies. It is based in Calgary and funded by the Alberta government, and it is available only to Alberta-based companies. The agency partners with industry, entrepreneurs, researchers, and government affiliates to enable the use of geospatial technologies.

Funding is available to Canadian geospatial technology companies to help them achieve commercial success faster. Its HIRE program funds companies to recruit highly qualified technical workers to speed up the commercialization of geomatics technology. Funding is available to cover 50% of a new recruit’s salary, up to a maximum of $50,000. Up to date, they have funded 287 companies in the province. Here are more details about the program.

We have seen some of the main financial support programs available to start-ups. There are certainly more than the 11 we mentioned above. If you know of any other programs that you feel should make it to the list, let us know by sending us an email. We’ll make sure to include them on the list.

Disclaimer

The information in this blog is not intended to provide legal, accounting, or tax advice. It is intended for informational purposes only. You should seek legal or accounting before acting on any information in this blog.