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Innovation Funding and Grants

Applying for intellectual property rights is an important step in growing your business. Innovation funding and grants can help cover the costs of a patent application and subsequent steps in the patenting process or cover operational costs that would otherwise limit the funding your business has to develop its intellectual property portfolio.

We have compiled a list of potential sources of innovation funding, grants, and other assistance below that we recommend you investigate and apply for if eligible.

General Awards

These awards may be a good fit for most entrepreneurs and innovators looking for financial assistance. Other avenues to explore include personally contacting investors or reaching out to venture capital networks to obtain funding. While most of these awards offer a monetary prize to the recipients, some of the opportunities listed below only offer recognition to the broader business community. Nonetheless, collaborative work experience can facilitate a strong professional network that leads to downstream funding opportunities.

Business Development Bank of Canada (“BDC") Financing

BDC offers several financing solutions for business ranging from new start-ups to established businesses in operation for more than 24 months at the time of application. Established businesses can benefit from financing catered to the business’ particular funding needs, i.e., equipment or real estate purchases, purchase order fulfillment, etc.

Innovators & Entrepreneurs Foundation & the CANIE Awards

The CANIE Awards support and celebrate innovators and entrepreneurs from Canadian marginalized or underrepresented groups. As of 2022, the awards include the Seniorpreneur Award for Leadership & Innovation, the Global Impact Business Owner of the Year award, the 2022 Entrepreneur of the Year award, the Veteran Entrepreneur of the Year Award, the Indigenous Entrepreneur of the Year Award, the Black Entrepreneur of the Year Award, and the Climate-Related Product Innovation award. Award winners receive a $10,000 business grant in cash, and their businesses are promoted locally, regionally and nationally.

The Innovators & Entrepreneurs Foundation has also historically accepted applications for micro-grants.

Ingenious Awards

The Ingenious Awards are annual awards that recognize excellence and innovation in the use of information and communications technology (ICT) by organizations in all sectors. The awards have recently been revamped to include new categories and new awards including categories highlighting emerging technology like Artificial Intelligence (AI), Blockchain, Cyber and Cloud Adoption.

Government of Canada Awards and Funding

The Government of Canada strives to support domestic innovation and entrepreneurship. As such, if you are hoping to operate an intellectual property-based business in Canada or are a Canadian permanent resident or citizen, there are likely multiple sources of governmental funding you may be eligible for.

National Research Council of Canada—Industrial Research Assistance Program (IRAP)

Your small or medium-sized business may qualify for financial support to develop and commercialize innovative, technology-driven new or improved products, services, or processes.

Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada—Idea to Innovation Grants

As a college or university faculty member, you may be eligible for funding to support R&D projects with recognized technology transfer potential. Research Funding and Awards

Government of Canada portal for funding and awards, organized by category and type of research being done.

Canadian Institutes of Health Research: Funding Opportunities

R&D grants for innovators within the health and wellness sector in Canada. You could get financing for your idea or research proposal through several available opportunities.

Canadian International Innovation Program (CIIP)

A funding program useful for innovators working in partnership with individuals or businesses from Israel, Brazil, India, China, or South Korea.

Innovative Solutions Canada

This initiative provides government grants and procurement contracting opportunities to help small and medium-sized businesses develop and commercialize intellectual property. These resources can be especially helpful for entrepreneurs looking to overcome a funding-related development hurdle, test a prototype, or secure a government contract.

Canada’s Strategic Innovation Fund

Several funding streams are available to help finance research and development, commercialization, technology demonstration, and collaboration. This fund is directed to more mature businesses looking to secure funding for larger scale innovation and growth projects.

Business Benefits Finder

A Government of Canada aggregator that seeks to connect your business to relevant grant funding, experience, facilities and opportunities. In response to your answers to questions about your business, the aggregator will retrieve those opportunities most relevant to you.

Governor General’s Innovation Awards

Annual awards to recognize and celebrate outstanding Canadian individuals, teams and organizations for successes in innovation.

Mentor Networks: Canadian Government Funding for Small Businesses

A searchable directory of major government funding grants for research and development and other business initiatives.

Awards for Ontario Entrepreneurs

These governmental and non-governmental sources of funding are targeted specifically at entrepreneurs and innovators who are operating in Ontario or otherwise have a connection to Ontario (place of residence, etc.). Some of these awards may be directed to specific communities within Ontario rather than residents of the province at large.

Investing in Business Innovation

Four funding streams are available through FedDev Ontario to assist innovative businesses across Southern Ontario. These funding streams are directed to facilitating business growth, increasing regional innovation capacity, helping the aerospace sector recover after the pandemic, and fostering economic development and diversification in one’s community.

Ontario Centres of Excellence

Ontario entrepreneurs and start-ups may qualify for help from a suite of programs which support development of new technologies and ideas with demonstrated commercial potential. For example, OCE has programs directed to self-driving vehicles, 5G disruptive technologies, computer programming, digital infrastructure, and market readiness. The Collaborate 2 Commercialize program supports collaboration between Academia and Industry to solve an industry-based problem and drive the commercialization of IP. Early Researcher Awards

Funding for researchers at universities, colleges, research hospitals, or non-profit research institutions who have an idea they want to develop and are working within an organization or looking to build a larger team to expand on the research potential.

Industry Specific Opportunities

Many industries offer funding opportunities aimed at facilitating market innovation. While these opportunities may vary from industry to industry, it is important to research and identify what markets may benefit from your innovation strategy and what pertinent funding or collaborative opportunities exist.

Quantum Leap Funding Program

This program provides grants to help small and medium-sized enterprises and Canadian universities develop and commercialize innovative pharmaceutical products. This program is specifically directed to research and development drug discovery projects that improve, facilitate, or accelerate the drug discovery process and the development of safer and more effective drugs. Nonetheless, projects at any stage of the drug development process may receive a grant.

Innovation for Defence Excellence and Security (IDEaS)

This federal government procurement program is administered through the Department of National Defense and seeks innovative pre-commercial military and defence technologies. If your business operates in military research and development, these contracts represent a significant revenue opportunity.

Canadian Media Fund: Innovation & Experimentation Program

This program offers funding for innovative Canadian interactive digital media content and software applications to support conceptualization, prototyping, production, and marketing. Under this program, software developers can convert their intellectual property into functional products and repay project costs once the project’s results can be commercialized.

Ontario Interactive Digital Media Fund

This industry specific fund provided by Ontario Creates is directed to stimulating economic growth in the interactive digital media sector. If your business develops interactive software like virtual reality products, mobile applications, or video games, this fund can help with production, concept definition, global market development, or general marketing. Funding otherwise invested in these costs can then be directed to protecting your products through patents or copyright registration.

Business Scale-up and Productivity Program

This program administered by FedDev Ontario drives economic growth by providing funding to businesses developing innovative products, technologies, or processes that improve productivity. For example, innovative technologies that use digitization or automation to increase business capacity and competitiveness may receive funding under this program.

Funding for Initiatives in Social Innovation

If your initiative or innovation is geared toward social justice or social innovation, there are several funding and charitable grants that you may be eligible for. This may also include inventions that are aimed at improving quality of life.

Charity Village: Canadian Foundations

A list of non-profit foundations that provide grant and bursary funding for specific causes, including research and development in various sectors.

The McConnell Social Innovation Fund

You may be eligible to obtain funding if your business shares one or more of the McConnell Foundation’s focuses (communities, reconciliation or climate) and is wishing to consolidate, expand or scale up through social innovation work.

Mitacs Entrepreneur Awards

Annual Mitacs Entrepreneur awards recognize and celebrate exceptional entrepreneurs in five categories. Eligibility depends on participation in one or more Mitacs programs.

Accessible Technology Program

This Canada-wide program invests in hardware and software solutions that help Canadians with disabilities overcome barriers through innovative assistive and adaptive digital devices and technology. If your business focusses on innovating in the accessibility sector, co-funding options can help you protect your intellectual property.

Women in Innovation Funding

There are awards for female entrepreneurs and innovators that your business may be eligible for if you have a female founder or co-founder.

RevolutionHer Award

Awards for female entrepreneurs demonstrating excellence and innovation at all levels of business development, with a focus on small and up-and-coming businesses.

RBC Women of Influence

Awards for female entrepreneurs at all levels of business growth (small business at any stage of operation demonstrating successful growth, start-up ready for expansion, and larger categories).

Funding for Young Entrepreneurs

If you are a young entrepreneur hoping to obtain a patent or start a business involving intellectual property, there may be some awards geared specifically toward supporting you. While some of them may be contingent on enrolment in an educational institution or program, others may be open to all innovators under a certain age threshold.

Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Funding

Supports post-secondary research initiatives in the social sciences and humanities fields. You could be eligible for grant funding through three programs: Talent, Insight and Connect.

The Thiel Fellowship

The fellowship provides a $100,000 grant over two years to young entrepreneurs and innovators (under 23) for full-time pursuits of their idea. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis.

University of Toronto Funding Opportunities for Inventors and Entrepreneurs

A list of funding opportunities for budding and established entrepreneurs, some limited to U of T faculty, students and alumni and others open to all innovators.

University of Waterloo: International Funding Opportunities

A list of funding opportunities directed toward research and innovation, some limited to Waterloo faculty and students and some open to all innovators.

Finding the Right Funding and Support

While the above list canvases many great opportunities to help bring innovative products and services to market, it is important to also investigate what financing opportunities are specifically applicable to your innovations. Research whether funds or support are available to your business based on the industry in which you operate, the geographical region you conduct or intend to conduct business in, your objectives, or your financial situation. It is also prudent to consult legal counsel prior to applying for innovation funding or support since many intellectual property rights or other commercial interests can be affected by the terms and conditions of the agreement governing the funding, grant, or collaborative opportunity.

If you are aware of any other sources of innovation funding or other financial assistance which may benefit innovators in Canada, please let us know by emailing Christopher Heer.