If you have been reading the news lately, you will have noticed a few articles lamenting Canada’s decline in innovation and productivity. The general consensus is that our business culture is too risk averse, discouraging entrepreneurs from taking the necessary risks to build and commercialize innovative products. Well it seems that the government is taking their first step to try and counter this trend, as their Canadian Innovation Commercialization Program (CICP) gets ready to dish out its first round of capital.

According to recent articles, innovation in Canada is growing at a paltry rate, as we hold just 1.36% of patents worldwide (a good measure of innovation according to the article). The strong Canadian dollar, coupled with the weakening demand in the US market, is putting the pressure on Canadian companies to build better, more innovative products to sell globally. Naturally, innovation needs to be a driving force in our economy, which is why the government has developed the CICP.

The whole goal of the CICP is to give innovative Canadian companies with advanced-stage commercialization projects a chance to get some valuable cash and feedback on their products/services. In the 2010 budget, $40 million dollars was earmarked for the CICP program, which will be deployed in four stages over a two-year period. The first Call for Proposal will occur on November 4th, so any companies with advanced-stage commercialization projects will have their chance to get a piece of the pie (only $3 million in stage one).

The government is focused on spurring innovation in four key areas:

  • Safety and Security
  • Environment
  • Health
  • Enabling Technologies

The above listed categories are general, as the government does not wish to restrict companies who may be unsure of whether they qualify. In order to have your company taken into consideration, you must have not made any significant sales (see the definition or pre-commercialization here) of your product or service by the date of proposal submission (November 4th for round one). Additionally, there are a few other requirements, such as being a Canadian company.

The outreach and administration of the program is being done by the Office of Small and Medium Enterprise (OSME). The OSME went around to government departments and asked what types of products/services they were looking for specifically; some of the more interesting examples included:

  • Telepresence
  • Workplace 2.0
  • Collaboration
  • Cloud Computing

To apply, companies must fill out a fairly lengthy proposal; details about the proposal can be found at the MERX website (search CICP).

What the CICP does is give government departments capital to buy products/services that they would not typically buy. Usually, procurement dollars are directed at products/services that are tried, tested and true; however, the CICP dollars will be used to purchase unproven products/services, ones that have great potential but are not commercially available. The government actually pays for the product/service itself, so companies can submit a proposal and try to get paid at full price for their product/service.

Essentially, it’s all about giving companies an opportunity that they wouldn’t have had otherwise. Generally, the pre-commercialization gap is referred to as the Valley of Death, as R&D-intensive creations struggle greatly to generate initial sales. The CICP program, the government hopes, will help bridge the gap between R&D and commercialization.

With $40 million up for grabs over the next couple years, many companies will have an opportunity to get off the ground. Whether or not this program will legitimately spur innovation in Canada remains to be seen, but the government’s pilot project will deliver some of Canada’s most promising companies a great boost in both capital and confidence.

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Worked with Plurilock Security Solutions on their CICP proposal, which was selected amongst a group of several hundred applicants in the second round:


Joel Finningley March 21

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