I’m not sure who said it (maybe Humphrey Bogart in “The Treasure of Sierra Madre”), but “There’s gold in them thar hills” comes to mind when I think of government grants and incentives.
The most common government incentive programs that Canadian companies employ are NRC/IRAP (http://www.nrc-cnrc.gc.ca) and SR&ED (http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/txcrdt/sred-rsde/menu-eng.html). If you are a technology company and are not availing yourself of these programs, you should look into them — now. The government is trying to promote innovation and employment via these programs, and your competition is probably already benefiting from them.
The situation with SR&ED and IRAP reminds me of university scholarships. We tell our kids to apply because they’ll never get a scholarship unless they do. And the application process is not that hard! It’s exactly the same situation with these government incentive programs for business.
SR&ED and IRAP are not the only government programs available to Canadian companies. A good place to look for government funding opportunities is “Canada Business Services for Entrepreneurs” (http://www.canadabusiness.ca). This is a government run web site, and there is a search page for government grants, loans and financing at http://www.canadabusiness.ca/eng/search/sof/. On that page you can search by province, industry, etc.. If you need financing, this is a good place to start. One of my clients, for instance, was able to secure Telefilm Canada (http://www.telefilm.gc.ca) funding for their technology venture last year.
Other countries have similar sites to the search page just mentioned. For instance, Australia has a government run “grantfinder” web site at http://www.business.gov.au/Grantfinder/Grantfinder.aspx. I had a look at this recently. (NB: I think the Canadian SR&ED program is better than similar programs in Australia). In the United States, there is a federal government site at http://business.gov/finance/financing/. Interestingly it says “The [United States] federal government does not provide grants for starting and expanding a business. Grants from the federal government are only available to non-commercial organizations…”. There are many programs available from the states, however, so if you’re doing business in the U.S., you may want to look at http://usgovinfo.about.com/od/smallbusiness/a/stategrants.htm as a place to start.
All in all, Canada provides generous funding to businesses. It is one of the things that can give you a competitive edge if you’re operating a Canadian technology business.