A handful of organizations which help entrepreneurs launch their startups moved one step closer to gaining government funding Friday as Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced progress in a program designed to help small and medium Canadian companies.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks to employees during a tour of Thalmic Labs in Kitchener, Ont., Friday. The company has created an armband called the Myo which reads impulses in the muscles to allow a user to use gestures to control computers or other devices. — Photo by The Canadian Press
Harper detailed the development in the Canada Accelerator and Incubator Program in Kitchener, Ont., at Communitech, a high tech organization that helps entrepreneurs commercialize their technologies.
“I’ve seen a lot of really interesting innovation and a lot of really interesting, smart young people who are working on them,” Harper said after he took a tour of the facility.
“These are advanced products that will really be driving the jobs of the future and so I think it’s a very exciting development.”
Fifteen organizations from across the country have been chosen to move forward in the program, which was established in 2013 to help “accelerators and incubators” deliver services to promising firms.
Accelerators are typically for profit organizations run by venture capital investors who intend to generate returns from investments in their client’s firms. They provide services that include business advice, office space and financial support to budding firms.
Incubators are typically not-for-profit firms that offer similar services but provide longer tenure for their clients and a broader range of services. They are often sponsored by universities, colleges and economic development corporations.
The government believes both play an important role in the venture capital system and aims to give them a boost through the program highlighted by Harper on Friday.
“It’s really something that will drive the Canadian economy in the future,” Harper said.
The program will provide support over a five-year period in the form of non-repayable contributions of up to $5 million a year per organization.
Recipients are required to match contributions on at least a one to one ratio during the funding period.
The organizations that have moved on to the next phase in the selection process submitted proposals last year to the National Research Council’s Industrial Research Assistance Program for evaluation. The proposals were then analyzed by an independent panel of venture capital experts.
The National Research Council is completing due diligence and establishing contribution agreements with the selected organizations.
The government estimates up to $90 million will be allocated to eligible organizations through the program.
The CEO of Futurepreneur Canada, a non-profit which helps entrepreneurs aged 18-39 bring their business ideas to life, welcomed Friday’s announcement.
“We count on partners throughout Canada, including accelerators and incubators, to help young people get the commercialization experience and the resources they need to launch businesses,” said Julia Deans.
“This is great news for Canada. We’ve heard from people across the country we need more accelerators and incubators and we count on the ones who’ve been awarded resources today to share their resources with others.”
Ian McLean of the Greater Kitchener Waterloo Chamber of Commerce added that accelerators and incubators weren’t limited to helping just high tech companies.
“This really should be seen as an opportunity for all businesses to benefit from innovating,” he said.
“The vast majority of businesses in this country are small, medium sized businesses and they all need to innovate, become more productive and use technology to compete in a global economy.”