Courtesy of Alena Barreca

There is a multitude of constantly evolving government funding programs that are available for Canadian businesses. From grants, to loans, to other funding incentives, there is no shortage of various support options available. However, the funding landscape is vast and often complicated, with hundreds of programs that each have their own unique deadlines, expectations, applications and allocations.

Available federally, provincially and territorially, funding programs cover a wide range of categories.

Funding categories

Business expansion funding: It takes considerable knowledge and financial resources to scale a business globally, but developing a growth strategy that includes government funding is a strong step towards a sustainable and achievable expansion. There are a variety of government grants and funding programs that can help offset the costs of purchasing equipment for exporting, producing certifications for industry standards, participating in international trade shows, trade missions, translating materials, marketing research and analysis, hiring international market development assistance and more.

Capital and tech adoption funding: Capital investment funding is available to support Canadian businesses that want to focus on technology and software adoption projects. As opposed to business expansion funding, which generally focuses on larger expansion initiatives that are completed over multiple phases, capital investment grants and loans tend to support specific projects that are directly related to improved business performance. Companies can access technology funding programs at both the federal and provincial level to offset project costs, which enables firms to purchase innovative technologies sooner than would be possible by only using cashflows.

Hiring and training grants: A business is only as strong as its team. If a business is planning on expanding or developing its workforce, there are Canadian government grants for small-business recruitment activities to ensure there are qualified workers with the requisite skills and capabilities to support ongoing and future business plans. Funding programs can help organizations hire or retrain staff, improve their effectiveness, and train their staff in new areas such as advanced technologies or operational processes.

Research and development funding: Research and development activities support innovation and enable Canadian companies to achieve competitive advantages over other domestic and international firms. These types of activities are not just for research-focused companies and large businesses with substantial R&D budgets, but also for smaller companies that seek an edge over products and services that currently dominate the market. Innovation is a mindset that businesses must adopt to remain a viable choice for customers; without research and development, there will eventually be solutions available to a business’s client base that are more appealing than its offerings. Fortunately, Canadian government funding is available to offset R&D costs and help companies stretch their research budgets.

Specific federal grant programs

The Canada Job Grant (CJG): One program that is a staple among countless sectors in Canada is CJG. It is a federal government funding program designed to reduce the costs of providing third-party skills training to new and existing employees. Every year, CJG allocates upwards of $194 million to support the upskilling of employees so that they can perform new tasks and become more desirable.

All training programs must be provided by an eligible training organization (meaning no internal training programs) and should focus on improving business function, including: lean manufacturing principles, customer service, project management, financial planning, food safety, strategic planning, general management, leadership, software and technology, and sales and marketing.

CJG funding can reduce the cost of training employees by up to 83 per cent. This can cover up to $15,000 in training costs per trainee in the form of non-repayable grants. Each province has its own limitations and guidelines designed to optimize a workforce and ensure all employees are contributing to operational success.

The CanExport Program: The CanExport funding program provides Canadian government grants to support export marketing projects including participation in trade shows and government-led trade missions. By accessing additional funding for these types of activities, mining businesses can de-risk export market evaluation and development, ultimately helping to accelerate international growth.

Through CanExport, eligible businesses can receive up to 75 per cent funding, to a maximum $75,000 grant per project.

Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC): SDTC government funding can help mining businesses achieve national environmental goals of improving water, soil and air quality and reducing the effects of climate change. The fund supports late-stage development of pre-commercialization strategies to improve cleantech solutions across Canada.

Eligible businesses can receive up to 40 per cent of project costs to a maximum of $4 million in non-repayable funding. SDTC funds, on average, 33 per cent of project costs for a total average contribution of $3 million, dispersed in five years or less.

Related: Miners should take advantage of today’s pandemic-related opportunities while keeping a close watch on future markets

Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation (NOHFC) Programs

Currently offering four brand new programs with ongoing intakes, NOHFC funding aims to promote and stimulate the economic development of businesses located in northern Ontario by providing financial assistance to projects that stabilize, diversify and foster the economic growth and future success of the region.

The following two NOHFC programs are most applicable to mining businesses, with the other two programs (Community Enhancement Program and Cultural Supports Program) focusing on community improvement initiatives such as repairs to infrastructure and funding for media-related projects.

NOHFC INVEST North Program: Intended to increase economic growth in northern Ontario by inspiring businesses to invest in business development projects in northern communities, this program supports projects focused on improving productivity, innovation, business competitiveness, revenue growth, export capacity development and job creation and retention.

The level of funding support varies for each stream (there are six), but the maximum a northern Ontario business may receive from any single INVEST North Program project is up to 50 per cent of $5 million in grants and/or loans for eligible expenses during an approved project. 

NOHFC People & Talent Program: This program, with two distinct streams, is designed to attract, retain, and develop northern Ontario’s workforce by providing grants to businesses offering workplace opportunities to eligible applicants.

The Indigenous Workforce Development Stream helps strengthen and develop northern Ontario’s Indigenous workforce through business partnerships by offering internships to Indigenous persons. Eligible businesses, municipalities, Indigenous communities and not-for-profit organizations located in northern Ontario can access up to 90 per cent of an Indigenous intern’s salary, to a maximum of $52,500 per year.

The Workforce Development Stream also aims to strengthen and develop northern Ontario’s workforce by offering internships, and eligible applicants  may access up to 90 per cent of a non-Indigenous intern’s salary, to a maximum of $35,000 per year.

Before applying for government funding 

Before applying to access government funding, whether it is for hiring and training, global expansion, or research and development, here are a few things a business can do to assess its eligibility and prepare for the application process:

  1. Determine the achievable project goals and how they align with the funding criteria.
  2. Forecast the impact of the proposed job creation or project eligible for funding.
  3. Set a timeline for start, end, and duration of the project.

To be eligible for most Canadian government funding programs, mining companies must meet basic eligibility criteria. Although specific eligibility requirements vary from program to program, most require applicants to be incorporated for at least three years, have 15 or more payroll employees, and have at least $500,000 in annual revenue.

Maintaining an in-depth understanding of these incentives (including their purpose, timing and what they look for in applications) can be incredibly difficult for most businesses.

Fortunately, there are support organizations that aim to educate businesses on the government funding accessible to them, as well as assist them in simplifying the application process if they require support.

 Alena Barreca is a marketing coordinator at Mentor Works, a support organization that works directly with Canadian businesses to develop dynamic government funding plans that support all areas of business investment.