Government of Canada pilot program positions Canadian SMEs to move product, services to market faster

Business Innovation Access Program creates linkages between businesses and universities, colleges, and research institutions for economic benefits

March 18, 2014— Brampton, ON

The Honourable Greg Rickford, Minister of State (Science and Technology), joined by John R. McDougall, President of the National Research Council of Canada (NRC), announced a new program that will help small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) access the business and technical services they need to get innovative products and services to market faster.

The Business Innovation Access Program, a $20-million investment, will leverage the extensive networks and knowledge within NRC’s Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC-IRAP) to connect SMEs with universities, colleges and other research institutions to address and resolve barriers to the commercialization of ideas, products and services. The support available through the program can involve external business services such as planning and marketing as well as technical services such as specialized testing, product prototyping and process development.

The Business Innovation Access Program follows from a series of recommendations made by the independent Research and Development Review Expert Panel lead by Tom Jenkins in 2010-11 to better focus federal investments while maximizing innovation and economic benefit for Canadians.

To date, the Government of Canada has delivered on a number of recommendations from the Panel: it has created a Venture Capital Action Plan (VCAP) to increase private sector venture capital funds; transformed the National Research Council into a business-focused research council; created a Concierge service to help SMEs navigate existing government innovation programs; leveraged federal government procurement to encourage innovative Canadian products and services; doubled the investments of the Industrial Research Assistance Program (IRAP); and encouraged continued partnerships between Canadian universities, colleges and businesses.

Quick Facts

  • The Government of Canada is committing $20 million over two years to the Business Innovation Access Program to support innovative research and development that translates into products that benefit Canadians.
  • The Business Innovation Access Program is a national pilot program to be delivered through NRC-IRAP. The program will complement NRC’s existing array of innovation support, strategic research, and scientific and technical services.
  • With its national network of Industrial Technology Advisors, IRAP provides support to small- and medium-sized enterprises in Canada in the development and commercialization of technologies.
  • To access the program, small and medium-sized businesses are invited to contact NRC IRAP by calling 1-877-994-4727.


"Our government is positioning small and medium-sized businesses to compete and win in global markets. The Business Innovation Access Program will provide SMEs with the opportunity to acquire business or technical services from universities, colleges or other research institutions. As a result, ideas, products and services will move from SMEs to the marketplace faster, creating jobs, growth and opportunities for Canadians."

Minister of State (Science and Technology) Greg Rickford

"NRC-IRAP has been a catalyst for innovation and business growth across Canada for many years. The Business Innovation Access Program will connect businesses with research communities on a national scale to place leading-edge technologies in customers’ hands."

John R. McDougall, President of the National Research Council of Canada

"The Business Innovation Access Program will have enormous benefit. Partnerships like these bring together the people, ideas, equipment, and facilities that help small and medium sized businesses to advance their products and processes. By involving students, we also ensure that they will become conduits that will transfer invaluable knowledge and experience to industry and society upon graduation."

Dr. Jeff Zabudsky, President and CEO of the Sheridan College

"CME is a strong backer of the Business Innovation Access Program which will be a major advantage for small and medium-sized companies looking to partner with academic institutions for their applied research needs, from design to prototyping. It will help SMEs become technology leaders in their industries, adopt new technologies, and bring innovative products and solutions to their customers more rapidly."

Jayson Myers, President of Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters

"The Business Innovation Access Program is a unique program that recognizes polytechnics and colleges as service providers of R&D expertise and talent. Small and mid-sized firms in all sectors will be able to choose from among the applied research capabilities of our members to solve their technical and business innovation challenges in a time-sensitive way. Polytechnics Canada has been a key proponent for such a demand-driven innovation program that focuses sharply on the commercialization gap for Canada's small firms. We welcomed the announcement of the initiative in the March 2013 federal budget, and we applaud its launch today."

Nobina Robinson, Chief Executive Officer of Polytechnics Canada and panel member of the Research and Development Review Expert Panel (Jenkins Panel)

"ACCC is pleased to see federal investments aimed at strengthening partnerships between public colleges and institutes and Canada's small- and medium-sized business community. Partnerships with colleges, institutes, and polytechnics contribute to economic growth and employment opportunities in communities across Canada every day, which is key to helping bridge Canada's skills gap."

Denise Amyot, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Association of Canadian Community Colleges and the Association of Canadian Community Colleges (ACCC)

"Our universities have recognized that one of the challenges for small and medium sized enterprises is to find an economical and practical way of accessing research and industry expertise. The advantage of the Business Innovation Access Program is that it will connect SMEs to university experts through our faculties, students and post docs as well as our world leading research facilities."

Dr. Amit Chakma, Chair of the U15 Group of Canadian Research Universities and President of Western University

"Innovative initiatives like the Business Innovation Access Program will help turn the R&D knowledge of university researchers into improved products, goods and services," says Paul Davidson, president of the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada. "Business already counts on Canada's universities for more than $1 billion in research. This program will boost university-business links even further, as more small and medium sized business owners will be able to put the expertise of universities to work leading to the creation of new jobs, improved products and greater prosperity."

Paul Davidson, President of the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC)

"Startup Canada applauds the launch of the $20M investment into the new Business Innovation Access Program, which will help to strengthen local start-up connectivity to expertise at universities and colleges. This is an important step toward elevating entrepreneur connectivity to post-secondary institutions; encouraging a greater focus on industry application within these institutions; and, producing a new generation of entrepreneurs that will build innovative companies to propel Canada forward through innovation, job creation and as anchors in our communities."

Victoria Lennox, Chief Executive Officer of StartUp Canada

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Contact information

Erica Furtado
Communications Advisor
Office of the Minister of State (Science and Technology)
(Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario)

Media Relations Team
National Research Council of Canada
Telephone: 613-991-1431
Toll-free: 1-855-282-1637
Twitter: @nrc_cnrc

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