Canada is home to some of the world’s most significant innovators. Reginald Aubrey Fessenden was the first to broadcast on the AM radio band in 1900. Toronto-based doctor Frederick Banting discovered insulin, and Alberta-born computer scientist James Gosling developed the Java programming language. The National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program, or IRAP for short, wants to create more innovators. If you’ve got a ground-breaking idea, you might be able to grow your business with the organization’s support.
What Does IRAP Do?
Did you know that Canada has nearly 2 million small and medium-sized enterprises? IRAP believes these SMEs are the lifeblood of the economy and a major source of wealth creation. Each year IRAP runs a program that supports thousands of innovative SMEs from every industry, at all stages of the innovation process. The program includes support for the development of specialized, technology-oriented solutions and competitive artificial intelligence. IRAP also provides support for patent searches, referrals, expertise searches, strategic intelligence, business advice, and networking.
How does IRAP pull this off? The organization manages its activities with the help of over 250 Industrial Technology Advisors located in 200 regional offices across the country. ITAs are industry experts, and their goal is to help small business owners like you reach their goals.
What Kind of Services Does IRAP Provide?
IRAP’s mission is to create wealth for through innovation. They do this by helping you get your ideas to market. The organization provides SMEs with technical and business advisory services, financial assistance, networking, and youth employment help. Technical and business advisory services include matching you with industry technology advisors to coach you through the innovation process. Financial assistance is available for qualified SMEs depending on the type of project.
Networking services link your business with extensive professional affiliations and advisors to help establish business partnerships. IRAP also encourages the hiring of Canada’s youth through their Youth Employment Program. The program places youth in targeted areas of research to get first-hand knowledge about the industry and its technology.
In addition to these services, IRAP also runs Canada Accelerator and Incubator Program and Concierge. CAIP provides grant funding to incubators that support early-stage firms and entrepreneurs. Concierge is a knowledge-base for SMEs. This is a wonderfully organized resource for finding business opportunities. You can also find resources in the global marketplace on Concierge. IRAP offers business relationships in the United States, India, China, and the European Union.
Is Your Business Eligible For IRAP Help?
Before you get too excited, there are a few eligibility requirements to keep in mind. First, you need to be an SME. Second, you can’t employ more than 500 people. Third, you must have a goal of generating profits through technology innovation in Canada. Before receiving financial help, an ITA contacts you to confirm that you can actually run your business with the money IRAP gives you. In other words, they want to know if you’re serious. Your job is to prove that you are.
IRAP Success Stories
IRAP has many success stories. One such story is out of rural Prince Edward Island. Trout River Industries, Inc designs and manufactures innovative truck trailers. Dump trucks can be very dangerous, especially when the shovel fails. Drivers often put themselves in dangerous situations by climbing inside the dump bucket. Harvey Stewart, the founder, knew there had to be a better way, so he contacted IRAP for assistance with patenting a conveyor belt.
The automated conveyor belt dumps what’s inside the truck without tipping the dump bucket. Stewart credits IRAP as being one of the first organizations to help him conceptualize his dream. They encouraged him to document the process as he worked through the design. They also helped him with modernizing production, hiring an engineer, conducting a feasibility study, and designing new trailers. Still, with all of the assistance IRAP provided, Stewart thinks the best help was connecting him to the right people.
Innovation isn’t always about building equipment. Sometimes, it’s about making a better cup of coffee. In Nova Scotia, SureShot Solutions got some help from IRAP for research and development. If you like milk, cream, sugar, sweetener, and flavour in your coffee, Sureshot makes sure your cup has perfect portions of each so you can enjoy the same great taste every time. As Sureshot grew, the focus changed. They wanted to find ways to improve accuracy, speed, and efficiency. These improvements saved the company and its customers money, which helped to grow customer loyalty. Like Trout River Industries, Sureshot Solutions credits much of its success to IRAP’s invaluable network.
Taking advantage of IRAPs connections and knowledge-base, Sureshot made inroads throughout Atlantic Canada and the broader Canadian innovation network. IRAP also introduced the company to Canada’s Smartest Kitchen, a state-of-the-art research and development facility that develops food products in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. These strategic alliances helped the company to create customer experiments to determine the perfect portion amount. Today, Sureshot Solutions designs, manufactures, and markets innovative dispensers for many of the world’s leading quick-service restaurants.
Ultimately, it’s up to you to grow your business, but it’s also nice to know that you’re not alone. IRAP can patch you into a network of the right people to help you leapfrog ahead of your competition.