Good news! Alberta has rolled out another program designed to support small Canadian companies specializing in technological innovation. The Alberta Small Business Innovation and Research Initiative (ASBIRI) is a program that matches the innovation ability of small- and medium-sized businesses with challenges presented by end-users. These end users are federally registered corporations; groups of private sector corporations; public sector organizations, such as government departments, agencies and municipalities; and industry consortiums. The challenges presented range from waste stream diversion to pipeline leak prevention, and remote cardiac monitoring technology to biomarkers for assessing bone disease (full list). ASBIRI will connect end-users with a direct access to market needs and resources to take new products to market, with small- to medium-sized businesses unafraid of risks and possessing strong in-house innovation capacity.

How much money is on the table?

So, ASBIRI will stimulate the development and commercialization of novel technological solutions while generating returns on investment to the Province of Alberta. Growth is good for businesses as a whole, and good for your business is the funding you could be eligible to receive.

While ASBIRI hasn’t set an exact sum, funding levels are anticipated to be $1M for each project. Projects may have a term of up to five years. ASBIRI also encourages co-funding your project via other funding agencies. The maximum level of total government funding (whether from federal, provincial/territorial, and/or municipal departments, Crown agencies or Crown corporations) can’t exceed 75% of eligible project costs. Thus, a project that would cost your company $1.3M could be funded with up to $975,000 in government money, leaving you to pay only $325,000. It’s like a sale on R&D!

Who can use The Alberta Small Business Innovation and Research Initiative?

To qualify for the Alberta Small Business Innovation and Research Initiative, your company must be a small- to medium-sized advanced technology-oriented business developing innovative new products or services for growing markets. Your enterprise must be a provincially, extra-provincially, or federally registered corporation with a legal status to operate on a for-profit basis in Alberta and have a physical presence in Alberta. You should be able to demonstrate why ASBIRI funding is necessary for your project’s success, and show that you have the operational capital and financial resources to develop and commercialize the innovation or technology in question. It will also be necessary to provide evidence of the viability of your technology or innovation and its value to the end-user. You will need to have a plan in place for applying research results and marketing or exploiting products or processes you develop. Finally, you must not owe money to any Alberta Innovates Corporation organization, organization subsidiaries, or partners.

What I liked most

I like how the Alberta Small Business Innovation and Research Initiative couples the ability of small business to excel at managing risks and innovating, with end-users’ direct access to markets and resources to take new products to market. It’s a beneficial situation for both parties, but the greatest benefit is for small and medium sized businesses; they now get the opportunity to forge partnerships and network with larger enterprises that might ordinarily pass them by. I think this is a great way to remind larger firms that, although they have direct market access and are widely publicly known, they are not necessarily on the cutting edge of innovation and maybe owe a debt of gratitude to the smaller firms that make innovation the cornerstone of their business and drive technological advancement.

Final Thought

“I made 5,127 prototypes of my vacuum before I got it right. There were 5,126 failures. But I learned from each one. That’s how I came up with a solution. So I don’t mind failure.” – James Dyson

Developing an innovation is a long process, full of failures and very costly. Some of the brilliant inventions that we can’t imagine life without today first went through a grueling trial and error process. Don’t worry if you are having trouble getting your prototype to work, you are in good company with other great minds. As for the cost of all this research? That’s what the Alberta Small Business Innovation and Research Initiative is for.

Sir James Dyson is best known for his vacuum cleaners that work using mini cyclones to suck and separate dirt, while never losing suction as it fills up.

ConnexFund specializes in grants and funding for innovative companies and start-ups with focus on technology and manufacturing. Many Canadian businesses are aware that there is some free money available for them. But not so many know where to find it, how to access it and how to prepare a grant application that is successful. And this is exactly what ConnexFund does!