Canada Digital Adoption Program: Complete Guide for Business Owners

If you’ve been thinking about increasing your competitiveness by digitizing your small to medium-sized business, this is the time to do it!

Perhaps you need new technology to get your consumer-facing business online or you need new or improved cybersecurity? Innovation, Science, and Economic Development Canada (ISED) has partnered with specific trusted agencies such as Business Development Canada (BDC) to offer 0% interest loans to help Canadian businesses move forward with new technologies.

Depending on the size of your business and its revenue, you could also get a grant to put together a digital adoption plan and then graduate to that 0% interest loan to implement your new plan. And you’ll have 5 years to pay it back! Does it get any better?

If your attention is piqued now, read on to learn more about the four simple steps for applying for the program, how the program works, how much money you can potentially expect to receive, how to apply, and how to determine if your business is eligible for the program. Then read all the way to the end to discover a few tips for maximizing your funding.

About the Canada Digital Adoption Program

Do you even need this program? Here’s what this program could help you achieve:

  • reduce overhead costs
  • speed up transactions
  • respond to clients faster
  • manage inventory more efficiently
  • improve supply-chain logistics

If any of that sounds like what your business needs, then let’s dive into the nitty-gritty of the Canada Digital Adoption Program (CDAP). We’ll start by clarifying that there are 2 streams to the CDAP program

Stream 1: CDAP Grow Your Business Online is specifically to help small, consumer-facing businesses with annual revenue less than $500k jump into the e-commerce world.

However, if this describes your business and business goals, you could get not only a microgrant to help you adopt digital technologies but also advisory services to help you plan how to get there and recommend what you need most.

Here’s a tidbit to note though: while the BDC is involved in the larger, overarching ISED digital adoption program, they are not involved with this stream.

Stream 2: CDAP Boost Your Business Technology does have BDC involvement, and this is the stream that will help you create, adopt, and pay for a digital adoption plan, depending on your eligibility. This stream is for businesses with annual revenue greater than $500k, and it offers increased grant money and the 0% interest loan, again, depending on your eligibility.

How the Canada Digital Adoption Program Works

For Stream 1: Grow Your Business Online, simply visit ISED to get started and apply. Remember, this program is for you if you’re a smaller business, such as a start-up, that doesn’t qualify for Stream 2: Boost Your Business Technology. Also note that if you only qualify for stream 1, then you cannot request a 0% interest loan.

Stream 2: Boost Your Business Technology helps businesses that need more advanced technology to digitize. This stream has 2 steps:

  • Businesses can access funds to cover a portion of digital advisory services to create a plan to move their business processes forward technologically.
  • In the second step, businesses can apply for a 0% interest loan to help implement the plan and secure the equipment, training, and services necessary to do so.

Know, however, that though your business is applying for the program under the CDAP umbrella and will have to meet their eligibility criteria, you’ll also have to meet BDC’s creditworthiness criteria.

And yes, you can apply for this stream for more than one business, provided they operate independently and have individual digital adoption plans.

Already have your own digital adoption plan in place? Simply head to their website to determine if the program you used to create your plan is recognized by ISED. If it is, then you get to skip ahead and choose their fast-track option. Plans 24 months old or less are eligible if created with an ISED-recognized partner.

After you’ve been approved for the program and you’ve completed your digital adoption program using your personalized ISED link sent through BDC and your plan is approved, then you have 6 months to apply for the 0% interest loan. If you used the fast-track option, then you have 30 days to apply for the loan. Beware that if you exceed the timeframes, you’ll no longer be eligible for the loan. Also know that you must be able to attest that you used the loan funds to put your digitization plan in place and not for any other purpose, such as to pay off another loan, as the CDAP can audit you.

At the same time, you’re not required to apply for the loan. Once you’ve completed your digital adoption plan, you are free to implement your plan with your own cashflow or financial institutions. Knowing this, be aware that when you apply, you will be required to give consent because if you’re declined for the loan, it will be reflected in your credit score.


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    Eligibility for the Canada Digital Adoption Program

    Eligibility requirements are slightly different depending on whether you apply for stream 1 or stream 2.

    CDAP Grow Your Business Online eligibility:

    • Canadian owned
    • for profit
    • registered or incorporated
    • consumer-facing and providing in-person services to consumers
    • have at least 1 employee OR at least $30,000 in annual revenue in the most recent tax year
    • commits to maintaining a digital adoption strategy for 6 months
    • agree to participate in follow-up surveys, share the experience, and have your name published as a grant recipient

    However, there are a few criteria that will disqualify your business from being eligible for stream 1:

    • being a corporate chain, franchise, or registered charity
    • being a representative of a multilevel marketing company
    • being a real-estate brokerage
    • being a business engaged in online reselling or dropshipping reliant on third-party suppliers
    • being a wholesale or distribution business and manufacturer unless you sell directly to consumers

    Once you’re approved for this stream, you’ll get access to a local service provider who will put you in touch with an e-commerce advisor. To receive a microgrant to start digitizing your small business though, you can only use the funds to cover eligible costs. Click Apply on ISED’s website to learn more.

    CDAP Boost Your Business Technology eligibility: the main eligibility requirement is that your business must have had an annual revenue of at least $500,000 in at least 1 of the last 3 years. To learn more about your business’s eligibility, take the short online assessment quiz on the ISED website.

    Remember, to be eligible, you must meet both ISED’s and CDAP’s requirements plus BDC’s credit requirements.

    How Much You Can Get from the Canada Digital Adoption Program

    CDAP Grow Your Business Online: A grant of $2,400

    CDAP Boost Your Business Technology:

    • For businesses with revenue between $500k – $5 million: a no-interest loan from $25,000 to $50,000
    • For businesses with revenue over $5 million: a no-interest loan from $25,000 to $100,000

    This loan comes with a 5-year term with a 12-month capital postponement (for a total of 6 years) and has no additional fees.

    How to Apply for the Canada Digital Adoption Program

    Applying for stream 1 is easy and includes just three steps:

    • Step 1: Check the eligibility criteria.
    • Step 2: Click Apply Now to connect with a service provider in your province or territory.
    • Step 3: Apply for the grant with help from your service provider.

    Note that should you be an Indigenous business, you have the option of applying through either your Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business or your local service provider. And applying for stream 2 is just as simple and includes the same first 2 steps as for stream 1 above. Just remember to use the eligibility assessment tool first!

    However, you will need a GC key or an account with a sign-in partner to create a federal government account to do so. Whether you’re signing in with one of these methods or need to create an account or get your GC Key, click the Apply Now button on the CDAP website.

    Then stream 2 has two more steps: work with your digital advisor to create a digital adoption plan (if you haven’t used the fast-track option), then submit your plan to get your grant money.

    Once you’ve gone through the first phase of stream 2 and completed your digital adoption plan and had it approved, you’ll be sent a personalized link through BDC you will use to apply for your loan, should you choose to take advantage of it.

    A Helpful Tip to Maximize Your CDAP Funding

    To make the most of your funding, here’s a tip: hire a student or recent graduate to help you implement your digital adoption program. Not only will you get fresh perspective and the most recent knowledge in the field, but you can also get a wage subsidy of up to $7,300 to help you pay your new talent through a work placement with this program.

    The Bottom Line

    Let’s face it. Today’s world is a digital world. Doing business as you once did isn’t going to cut it anymore. At the same time, diving into a whole new way of doing business is intimidating and confusing.

    Yet you know it has to be done. So why not take advantage of not only digitization experts to help you create a solid foundation and plan but also money to help you do it?

    Create an e-commerce platform, invest in some cybersecurity, or simply increase your productivity with this program. You’ll end up streamlining your customer transactions, response time, supply-chain logistics, and more. All you have to do is ensure your creditworthiness with BDC, head to their website or ISED’s website to learn more and apply, and then follow through with your digital advisor. It’s just that easy!

    For additional, more in-depth information on things such as ineligible costs and documents, you’ll need when you apply, download this PDF.

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