FedDev Ontario Announces $1 Billion for Innovation Funding

Canada’s largest province is going to make sure their innovation economy is healthy and well-funded for the next half-decade.

Today, several Canadian federal ministers came together to announce over $1 billion worth of funding over the next six years for FedDev Ontario to continue fostering growth in southern Ontario. On top of that, an additional $100 million over three years will be dedicated to projects that drive growth in rural areas.

The funding will be split into three different streams: Business Scale-up and Productivity, Regional Innovation Ecosystem, and Community Economic Development and Diversification. Each stream has distinct requirements and outcomes outlined below, and applications to receive funding are now open.

Business Scale-up and Productivity

Through no-interest repayable contributions, this stream is looking to support businesses with global interests that can scale quickly and diversify their current market. The funding will prioritize companies with cutting-edge technologies and make loans of $500,000 to $10 million available for up to 35 per cent of eligible and supported project costs. This stream will mostly support projects in technology readiness levels 7-9, meaning a prototype is at near or planned operational levels and only requires demonstration of that prototype in a real environment.

This stream seems open to any sort of company that is past the early-stage funding space and looking to expand and find new opportunities around the globe, including accelerator graduates. The focus is on leading-edge technologies, so there is a good chance companies involved in sectors such as AI, quantum computing, blockchain and more will have an edge.

Regional Innovation Ecosystem

Targeted at non-profit organizations that fuel the entrepreneurial environment, this stream will make non-repayable contributions from $500,000 to $10 million per project, up to 50 per cent of the eligible and supported costs. The objective is to grow and sustain clusters that aid businesses in scaling up and commercializing their products as well as the general development of business incubators and accelerators. Finally, this stream will look to promote business productivity and competitiveness by attracting new talent and investments.

There are a number of organizations that fall under this category that could be eligible for funding, such as the Creative Destruction Lab, L-SPARK, or NEXT Canada. Examples provided by the government include encouraging the first customer for new technologies as well as seed funding and mentoring that will go towards commercializing those new technologies.

Community Economic Development and Diversification

As the name may suggest, this stream focuses on smaller communities and the businesses and non-profits within them. No-interest repayable contributions between $250,000 and $5 million will go to incorporated businesses (including Indigenous ones) while the funding awarded to non-profits will be non-repayable. In both cases, the funding will cover up to 50 per cent of the project cost. These organizations must be working to transform their local economies by bringing in new businesses, developing collaborative efforts to strengthen their won competitiveness, or by supporting existing hubs within their community.

An example of a business that may fall under this category is tealbook, a platform that recently worked with the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business to create an AI-powered community that encourages indigenous entrepreneurs to pick up procurement contracts. Businesses that are able to integrate into national or global supply chains are cited as an example of organizations that may receive funding.

Rural funding

The $100 million earmarked for rural funding will also go through the above three streams, although it will only be awarded to those smaller communities with a goal of creating stronger business opportunities outside of the major Southern Ontario hubs.

“With this new funding, FedDev Ontario will continue to scale-up innovative businesses, strengthen innovation networks, and boost economic growth in local communities to create good, middle-class jobs in one of Canada’s most vital economic hubs,” said Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development. “By engaging directly with Canadians living and working in southern Ontario, we are ensuring FedDev Ontario’s investments will reflect the unique strengths and opportunities of this region.”

Despite there being set limits to the funding amounts, the government will consider providing more money to specific projects on a case-by-case basis.