The 2018 Canadian Federal Budget was released in March to much interest from industry analysts. Innovation was a top priority of the federal government again this year, highlighted by an increase in funding support for several research and development programs. Unlike the previous two Liberal budgets, however, there will be considerable changes to the way these programs are administered.
There are many Canadian government funding highlights in Budget 2018, including a top-up of funds provided to the NRC Industrial Research Assistance Program (IRAP).
Despite an overall increase in the amount of funding, the total number of federal innovation programs is being reduced from 92 to 35. Another 22 programs administered through Canada’s Regional Economic Development Agencies are currently under review and could also be simplified over the coming year.
These changes are meant to streamline and “modernize” the way government funding programs are provided to businesses and research institutions.
Although budget allotments do not always provide a clear picture of what will happen to specific government funding programs, they provide insight into what the government is investing in, and what businesses might have to do to qualify for funding support.
This year’s focus on workforce equality and business innovation shapes, and will continue to shape, the government funding landscape over 2018. Some key points to consider in this trend include:
Government Funding Insights: Workforce Equality
Since being elected into government, the Liberals’ gender equality platform has been a leading force in many of their policies. Now, gender equality is a central focus in the federal budget and many funding programs are being created to support women in the workplace.
Canada Summer Jobs
“Equality” is a term also being applied to youth entering the workforce. Budget 2018 has extended an additional $448.5 million top-up to the Canada Summer Jobs (CSJ) program. Canada Summer Jobs is the federal government’s main source of grants for businesses offsetting the costs of students as they work over summer months. In 2019-2020, the program will double the amount of work placements it can fund, helping more youth find meaningful work experiences.
Women in the Workforce
Budget 2018 also focuses on increasing access to capital for women-led companies. Of the new funding announced, some of the most important investments include women-focused lending programs through the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC), Export Development Canada (EDC), and Farm Credit Canada (FCC). Specialized grants and other incentives are also available for the hiring and training of women in technology, construction, and other under-represented industries.
Apprenticeship Funding Programs
The budget also includes over $65.9 million in grants and financial incentives to support apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship programs.
Canadian businesses’ ability to innovate and remain competitive in the global economy is a central focus in Budget 2018.
Some of the major changes relating to grants and loans include the consolidation of innovation funding programs, increased funding to fundamental research organizations, and new funds for cybersecurity.
Consolidation of Innovation Funding Programs
The federal government’s decision to consolidate 92 active funding programs into 35 will streamline administration and make it more cost-effective for the government to administer. As these programs are modernized, it will also make it easier for Canadian businesses to understand the full range of options available.
Most innovation-related programs will be consolidated into “suites” that will act as integrated support options. Among these suites, four “flagship platforms” will focus on:
- Industrial Research Assistance Program (IRAP): The government will invest $700 million over five years, starting in 2018-19, and $150 million per year ongoing to support NRC-IRAP. The IRAP funding platform will now support small-to-medium-sized investments with up to $10 million in Canadian government funding per project. Previously, IRAP funding contributions were limited to a maximum $1 million per project.
- Strategic Innovation Fund (SIF): The Strategic Innovation Fund was established as part of the federal government’s 2017 budget. Now in its second year, the program will be updated to better complement IRAP and support large projects which lead to significant investment and job growth. SIF now provides a minimum $10 million in government funding per project and is seeking highly-innovate projects among Canada’s highest growth businesses.
- Canadian Trade Commissioner Service: The federal government will consolidate five programs aimed at supporting export market development into the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service. Current programs to be simplified include CanExport, Going Global Innovation, the Canadian International Innovation Program, and Canadian Technology Accelerators.
- Regional Development Agencies: The government also proposes to provide an additional $911 million to six regional development agencies to support its Innovation and Skills Plan. Specific government funding programs provided through these agencies (such as FedDev Ontario) have not yet been consolidated, but it’s expected that they will.
Budget 2018 provides $3.2 billion in funding over the next five years to support its granting councils (Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, and Canadian Institutes of Health Research) and Canada Research Chairs.
$155.2 million will be invested over the next five years to establish the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security. Another $116 million will be invested to support the RCMP in creating a National Cybercrime Co-ordination Unit.
Budget 2018 reaffirmed the Government of Canada’s commitment to invest in business innovation and workforce equality. While much of this new funding must still be allocated to specific programs, it’s worth noting which strategic priorities will be incentivized over the coming year(s).
To discuss how these changes could impact your business’ government funding strategy, please contact Mentor Works.
Mentor Works is a business support organization specializing in Canadian government funding. The Ontario-based business has helped hundreds of businesses build and execute their funding strategy through a mix of federal and provincial government grants, loans, and tax credits. Mentor Works offers free online resources, funding webinars, and news via their website at www.mentorworks.ca.