The expense of testing your products… The challenge of getting your first sale. You already know, as the owner of a technology company, how difficult it can be to break into the tech world as an entrepreneur. Fortunately, the Canadian government is ready to help. The Build In Canada Innovation Program may be your answer. This program, part of Canada’s push to encourage tech innovation, provides financial help and professional testing support to help you get your products to market.
What does the BCIP offer?
That first sale is so tough to get when you’re introducing a new tech product. With the BCIP, your first sale is a done deal. That’s because the Government of Canada purchases your product, while you keep your intellectual property. Here’s how it works: You take the money from that first sale to fund R&D or other needs in your company. Then you go out to make future sales with added credibility, since you’re not asking other buyers to serve as a guinea pig. And the help that the BCIP provides can be substantial, with up to $500,000 available for non-military technologies and a whopping $1 million available for tech that’s useful to the military, as of February 2018.
Once you’re accepted to the BCIP, the program also helps you overcome that testing hurdle by pairing you with a government technology testing partner. This testing organization provides access to high-end equipment and expertise — the type of professional help that many small businesses simply don’t have the resources to access. The process continues with feedback, so you can improve your product and update it to get it ready for market.
Who is eligible for the BCIP?
The whole point of the BCIP is to encourage innovation, so it’s no surprise that it’s open to a wide range of applicants, including public companies, private companies, nonprofits, universities, and individuals. Take a look at the eligibility requirements. You must:
- Be a Canadian citizen or have a Canadian bidding partner
- Own or have licensed the intellectual property rights to your product
- Be able to show that your tech doesn’t infringe on another company’s IP
Once you meet these simple conditions, the BCIP will take a look at your product, which also has to meet a few conditions. Your product must:
- Be new to the market, with no previous sales to commercial clients
- Have a technology readiness score of 7, 8 or 9
- Cost less than $500,000 (for non-military tech) or $1 million (for military tech)
- Include at least 80 percent content made in Canada
- Be new to the BCIP
BCIP Priority Areas
Before it launched the BCIP, the Canadian government picked out 10 different priority areas — disciplines that can benefit from new technology innovations. The priority areas are different, depending on whether you are making a military or non-military product. For standard (non-military) technology, the priority areas are:
- Enabling technologies
- Safety and security
If your technology innovation is designed for the military, it must fall into one of the following categories:
- Arctic and maritime security
- Command and support
- In-service support
- Protecting the soldier
- Training systems
Within each priority area, you can find sub-priorities; each of those also has a list of qualifying areas. To get into the BCIP, your company must fit into one of the most detailed categories. For example, under the Environment priority, there’s an Alternative Energy category, which includes items such as biofuels, solar power, and wind energy. Visit the BCIP Priority Areas page to see if your technology is a good fit.
Pathways to the BCIP
There are two ways you can apply to the BCIP. The first is to apply to the ongoing open call for proposals through the BCIP Online Submission site. If you have questions, look for the program’s occasional BCIP Bidder’s Teleconference calls.
You can also apply by responding to one of the BCIP challenges. Each challenge is designed to find technology innovations that help the government solve a specific problem — building a welding robot that can build ship hulls and remove corrosion, for example, or creating a tiny unmanned aircraft that works when GPS isn’t available. If your product falls within one of the challenges, you can apply by submitting a proposal through the individual project page.
No matter which option you choose, be prepared to provide information about your company and your technology innovation. For both applications, you must describe your operations, talk about the qualifications of your management team, and lay out the risks your business faces. It’s also a good idea to gather details on costs, licensing, and testing needs. If officials like your proposal, they look for testing partners. If one is available, the government decides how much money to award based on the costs and needs of your business innovation.
BCIP Success Stories
The BCIP is a great match for a wide variety of small businesses. One successful applicant was Bubble Technology Industries, which makes a The FlexSpec Backpack, which is a kind of wearable radiation-detection system. BTI is a good example of how you can use BCIP on a continuing basis; the company received four different contracts through the program, including real-world testing with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
In a completely different area, Sparx Smartpods Inc. won a BCIP contract for its Smartpods, which are computer workstations that automatically adjust to create a more ergonomic working position. In addition to the financial award, the company got to test its workstation in the Real Property Branch of Public Services and Procurement Canada.
Whether you’re developing a complex military technology or a simple office innovation, the BCIP could be a great fit for your company. If you’re a successful applicant, the financial award and professional testing can skyrocket your business to the next level.