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The government as your customer

Challenge meets opportunity: Fuelling technological development in Canada

Having great business ideas is a good start, but knowing where to get help for your business isn’t always obvious. Governments at all levels—from provincial and territorial to federal—offer a wide variety of programs and services designed to help businesses innovate, create jobs and grow Canada’s economy.

Now there is a place for Canadian businesses to find out what government can do to help them start, grow or access new markets, all in one location. Last year, the Government of Canada launched innovation.canada.ca, a digital platform that makes it easy to find government programs and services to help your business grow. With over 1,000 resources from federal, provincial and territorial governments, the platform can help you find funding, tax credits, advice and more —all in one place.

One of the programs that can be found on innovation.canada.ca positions the federal government as a potential customer. Innovative Solutions Canada (ISC) is a Government of Canada innovation procurement program aimed at supporting small businesses. The program includes 20 participating federal departments and agencies and has over $100 million dedicated to supporting the scale up and growth of Canada’s entrepreneurs.

To date, Innovative Solutions Canada has issued 42 challenges with more to come.

How it works
Participating federal departments and agencies that are looking for a product or service solution issue public challenges designed around a desired outcome rather than a known product or process specification. The challenges require novel solutions and products or services that are not commercially available.

By funding proposed solutions, the program supports the development of early-stage, pre-commercial R&D and accelerates the commercialization of late-stage prototypes.

By partnering with eligible Canadian small and medium-sized businesses and facilitating the early development, testing and validation of prototypes, ISC provides a pathway to commercialization. If an idea is selected, the applicant can receive up to $150,000 in support to develop a proof of concept. If the proof of concept is approved, up to $1 million in support is available to develop a prototype. If a developed innovation solves the challenge, the Government of Canada may be its first buyer.

ISC will work with selected businesses, helping them take their idea from the R&D process through proof of concept to commercial application. As a purchaser of Canadian goods and services, the federal government has an opportunity to support small and medium-sized businesses in bringing their innovations to market faster. This initiative encourages Canadian entrepreneurs to pursue areas of strategic importance to our economy, helping advance the next generation of solutions.

ISC is one of many programs available through innovation.canada.ca that could help you start or grow your business or access new markets.