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covid-19 recovery blog series headerWe’ve highlighted some of the top government funding programs in these three investment areas that agri-food businesses in York Region should be aware of.

York Region Economic Strategy is committed to supporting the York Region business community during this difficult and uncertain time due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In partnership with Mentor Works, an organization with expertise in helping businesses develop plans to access government funding programs, we have planned a series of articles that can assist businesses in navigating these difficult times and build a recovery plan as the economy moves towards returning to normalcy.

**Blog updated on 05/06/2020**

York Region’s agri-food sector – which is home to over 700 farms and more than 270 food & beverage manufacturers – is experiencing impacts throughout the supply chain as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the midst of this uncertainty, however, York Region agri-food businesses continue to produce and transform commodities to keep shelves stocked and feed the communities.

Fortunately, support initiatives from the provincial and federal governments, as well as from lending institutions, are available to businesses across the region’s agri-food sector. York Region has summarized the broad range of assistance available in two recent articles: Immediate actions York Region employers should take in response to COVID-19 and The key to COVID-19 business survival: cash flow support programs.

While many businesses – understandably – are focusing heavily on the now, York Region’s agri-food businesses should consider exploring strategic growth opportunities that will position their businesses for recovery in the eventual post-COVID reality and beyond. To encourage and de-risk growth efforts, both federal and provincial governments offer a wide selection of funding programs.

Below, we have summarized some of the most popular programs accessed under four categories: capital investment, research and development, hiring and training, and business/market expansion.

Capital Investment Programs

Business Scale-up and Productivity (BSP)

Administered by FedDev Ontario, the BSP program helps businesses adopt/adapt innovative technologies that support productivity, grow southern Ontario operations, and increase exports to global markets.

  • Amount: Applicants may receive a repayable contribution (no-interest loan) of up to 35% of eligible project expenses to a maximum of $500,000 to $10 million.
  • Eligibility: Must maintain profitable operations in southern Ontario for 2+ years, have ≥5 employees, and be an incorporated business or Indigenous organization.
  • Project Examples: Commercializing/producing new innovative products, processes, or services; acquiring, adopting, or adapting innovative technologies; and late-stage technology development to support new markets and/or industrial applications.

Applicants are strongly encouraged to contact FedDev Ontario prior to submitting an application for funding through the BSP website.

Workers in food factoryCommunity Economic Development and Diversification (CEDD)

Another program available via FedDev Ontario, the CEDD program supports projects committed to improving productivity, capacity, and competitiveness of businesses to increase employment and growth opportunities, as well as enhancing the resilience of communities.

  • Amount: Incorporated, for-profit businesses may receive a repayable contribution (no-interest loan) from $250,000 up to $5 million per project.
  • Eligibility: Legally incorporated businesses, including Indigenous-owned businesses, with operations in rural areas of eastern and western
  • Project Examples: Adoption of new equipment; market development, diversification, and expansion; and facility improvement or expansion to support greater economic diversification.

Applicants are strongly encouraged to contact FedDev Ontario prior to submitting an application for funding through the CEDD website.

CME Technology Assessment Program (CME TAP)

Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters (CME) has announced a new program called the Technology Assessment Program that will launch later in the month of April. This program aims to innovate Canadian manufacturing and exporting businesses by bringing in a third-party expert to identify productivity issues, perform process analysis, and make equipment recommendations.

  • Amount: Covers 100% of eligible project costs, to a maximum of $25,000.
  • Eligibility: The full list of eligibility requirements has not yet been outlined, but York Region businesses can pre-register for the technology assessment by having their organization’s signing officer submit an application.
  • Project Examples: Analyzing what machines and equipment should be replaced, and providing recommendations on what equipment will improve performance.

Assessment experts in York Region can apply to be a qualified service provider for this program.

Canadian Agricultural Partnership (CAP): Ontario Program

The Canadian Agricultural Partnership (CAP) is a five-year initiative by the federal and provincial governments to support Canada’s agri-food and agri-products sectors. In Ontario, the Partnership offers cost-share funding for key priority areas to support producers, processors, and other businesses across the agricultural value chain. These programs include:

  • Cost-Share Funding for Producers: Funds 25-50% of eligible costs (up to $100,000) for projects across a broad range of categories including Food Safety, Productivity, and Environmental Stewardship. Applicants must have a valid FBRN and file business and/or farm income/loss taxes in ON. More details are available from the OSCIA, which administers this program on behalf of CAP.
  • Cost-Share Funding for Processors: Funds 25-50% of eligible costs (up to $200,000) for projects across a broad range of categories. Project examples include developing new products or processes, implementing ERP systems, and improving labour productivity. Applicants must be ON-based transformers of agricultural commodities, food, beverage, or agri-based bio-products with <200 employees. More details are available from OMAFRA, which administers the program on behalf of CAP.
  • Place to Grow: Agri-Food Innovation Initiative: Supports collaborative projects that lead to large-scale benefits across Ontario’s agriculture and agri-food industry through two streams, Sector Funding (up to $100,000-$400,000) and Strategic Solutions (up to $250,000-$1M). Projects can be led by any type of applicant (including non-profits and industry associations) but should be collaborative in nature and combine two or more entities. More details are available from OMAFRA, which administers the program on behalf of CAP.

For information on upcoming application intakes for CAP cost-share funding, please visit their respective administrator websites.

Research and Development Programs

NGen Supercluster Funding

Next Generation Manufacturing Canada (NGen), one of Canada’s five innovation superclusters, administers $192 million in federal funding for collaborative technology development and application projects among member organizations (membership is free) under several streams:

  • NGen Capital Projects funds industry-led collaborations that strengthen the competitiveness of Canada’s manufacturing sector by driving more innovation and investment in advanced manufacturing.
    • Amount: Up to 44.4% of eligible project expenses for a maximum grant value of $8.88M.
    • Eligibility: Projects require a minimum of three industry, academic, and/or research partners, at least one of which must be an SME. Project costs should be between $1 million – $20 million and projects must deliver significant commercial benefits and jobs.
    • Project Examples: Adapting to Industry 4.0; improving existing manufacturing or R&D processes; collaborative technology development resulting in commercialization and/or IP.
  • NGen Capacity Building Projects supports Canadian SMEs by de-risking their implementation of advanced manufacturing technologies that will improve competitiveness and grow customer sales. This stream funds three specific types of projects:
    • Feasibility Studies: Funds partnering organizations (including at least one SME) undertaking advanced manufacturing, business planning, and technology implementation strategies such as risk assessments, market studies, and/or economic analyses. Project costs should be $50,000-$200,000 of which NGen may reimburse up to 50%.
    • Cluster Development: Supports new or existing clusters (minimum five SMEs) that are taking on a transformative initiative in advanced manufacturing such as commercialization, IP development, and/or training. Maximum project value is $150,000 of which NGen may reimburse up to 50%.
    • Pilot Projects: Funds partnerships of at least two SMEs undertaking activities to prove out technology implementation projects such as manufacturing process development, risk mitigation planning, and business case development. Project costs should be $100,000-$500,000 of which NGen may reimburse up to 50%.

While some NGen programs accept applications on an ongoing basis, others have designated intake periods. Find out more about NGen supercluster funding streams by visiting the Next Generation Manufacturing Canada website.

National Research Council Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC IRAP)

Designed to help accelerate the research and development projects of Canadian innovators, this project-based funding program can be leveraged to subsidize a portion of payroll costs.

  • Amount: Coverage ranging from 50-75% of payroll costs for projects.
  • Eligibility: Canadian-owned, incorporated private sector companies with <500 employees and in-house R&D capabilities (i.e. technical staff). Potential applicants must first present their project idea to an Industrial Technology Advisor (ITA).
  • Project Example: Developing a new version of a product or service that has an innovative feature such as reducing energy usage, increasing productivity, etc.

Apply for NRC IRAP funding through nrc.canada.ca or by calling the toll-free number at 1-877-994-4727. If your business can supply medical equipment or sanitization, see the NRC IRAP COVID-19 stream below.

NRC IRAP COVID-19 Funding Stream

The National Research Council Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC IRAP) has created a COVID-19 funding stream to grant R&D funding to manufacturers that can provide innovative solutions for Public Health Agency of Canada and Health Canada medium-term needs: personal protective equipment (PPE), sanitization, diagnostic and testing, therapeutics, and disease tracking technology.

  • Amount: At the time of writing, no maximum funding cap has been announced for the NRC IRAP COVID-19 stream.
  • Eligibility: Any business that can help meet the medium-term needs of Public Health Agency of Canada and Health Canada listed above.
  • Project Example: Clothing manufacturers pivoting to create medical-grade masks, gowns, and other medical equipment.

York businesses can apply for this funding through the NRC IRAP COVID-19 online registration form.


Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s AgriInnovate Program provides repayable contributions (loans) for projects that speed the commercialization, adoption, or demonstration of innovative products, technologies, processes, or services that benefit agri-sector competitiveness and sustainability.

  • Amount: Up to 50% of eligible project costs to a maximum $10 million in repayable funding, which may be repaid over a 10-year period following project completion.
  • Eligibility: For-profit businesses that are incorporated in Canada and can provide for a minimum of 50% of project costs.
  • Project Examples: Implementation of innovative (e.g. first-in-Canada, first-in-world) agri-processing equipment to commercialize new products.

Hiring and Training Programs

One of the advantages of developing a government funding strategy is the ability to combine multiple programs to support one large goal. For example, your business has just embarked on an autonomous vehicle project; does your team need extra training to be successful? Or maybe you simply need extra hands. Layering on hiring and training grants can be critical to meet your current and future needs.

Lady writing on white boardCanada-Ontario Job Grant (COJG)

The Canada-Ontario Job Grant (COJG) is an Ontario government funding program that offers training grants to employers. Through the program, companies may receive non-repayable funding from the government to purchase third-party business training programs, including training for in-demand skillsets.

  • Amount: Grant up to 50% (>100 employees) or 83% (<100 employees) to offset up to $10,000 per trainee. Small businesses with new hires may receive up to 100% coverage to a maximum of $15,000 per trainee.
  • Applicant Eligibility: For-profit and not-for-profit sector employers, First Nations, and organizations acting on behalf of employers may apply. They must be licensed to operate in Ontario and be applying for training that is delivered in Ontario and is related to a job that is in Ontario.
  • Project Examples: Training topics are to relate to the trainee’s career or skill development. Eligible training programs include financial planning, leadership, project management, marketing, software and technology, and more.

Post-Secondary Co-op Hiring Grants – Open for Summer 2020

Available via Magnet, there are hiring grants available to provide a portion of a current post-secondary student’s wage while they complete a paid, full- or part-time co-op placement. The roles can be in any industry but must support the student over a full semester (minimum 16 weeks). Funding is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis.

  • Amount: Up to 50% to $5,000 or up to 70% to $7,000 if the student is a woman in STEM, has been in Canada for less than 5 years, identifies with a disability, or is a first-year student.
  • Employer Eligibility: Canadian businesses can be in any industry and only net new positions qualify. Those looking to fill placements from May-August 2020 may now apply. *The program will allow for retroactive placements started in January 2020 if applications are submitted before April 30, 2020.
  • Candidate Focus: Must currently be enrolled in a post-secondary program that includes a work-integrated learning component (mandatory co-op/work placement). The student can be in any program of study. They are to be a Canadian citizen, permanent resident, or have refugee status. Must not be hired based on nepotism.

If your company is looking to fill post-secondary co-op roles this summer, consider using hiring grants to cover a portion of wages.

Hiring a Full-Time Post-Secondary STEM Graduate

Administered by BioTalent Canada, funding is available to assist innovative businesses to connect with recent graduates from STEM-related (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) programs.

  • Amount: The program provides up to a maximum of $15,000 in wage subsidies.
  • Employer Eligibility: Canadian organizations (for-profit SMEs, not-for-profits, post-secondary institutions, municipal governments, etc.) providing a full-time STEM- related internship for six to 12 months.
  • Candidate Focus: They are to be a Canadian citizen, permanent resident, or have refugee status, be under the age of 30 before the start of the internship, and have graduated in the last three years from a post-secondary STEM program.

Hiring a Full-Time Post-Secondary R&D Graduate

Career Launcher offers funding available to cover Ontario college and university students, as well as recent graduates, to work on industry-driven R&D projects in all sectors.

  • Amount: Up to $10,000 per four-month unit to a maximum of $60,000 (six units).
  • Employer Eligibility: Ontario-based businesses with research-oriented projects where results can be commercialized to benefit both the applicant and the Ontario government. The current focus is on automotive manufacturing companies or product/service providers for the automotive industry.
  • Candidate Focus: Final-year undergraduate student; master’s or Ph.D. student; or within three years of graduation from an undergraduate or master’s program from an Ontario college, university, or research hospital.
International Expansion Programs

With the right equipment, data management systems, and human resources in place, your business can begin to focus on adopting new international customers. While international travel has halted, for the time being, there are still programs that can be used to tap into the markets recovering from COVID-19.

CanExport SMEs Program

The CanExport SMEs program provides financial support to eligible Canadian exporters for marketing and expansion activities in up to five target export markets. Eligible expenses include marketing activities, packaging modifications, market research, and other initiatives.

  • Amount: Up to 75% of eligible costs associated with export marketing projects to a maximum $75,000 grant per application.
  • Applicant Eligibility: 1-500 FTEs on payroll, $100,000-$100M in annual revenue, 1+ years incorporated with taxes filed, and project expenses must be at least $20,000. The applicant’s sales must be under $100,000 (or less than 10% of total sales) in the target export market(s) over the previous 24 months.
  • Project Examples: Promotional video creation, designed for a foreign market.

At the time of this writing, the CanExport program is seeing major changes as a direct result of COVID-19. Visit tradecommissioner.gc.ca for the latest CanExport program updates related to COVID-19.