CanExport: Quick Guide for Business Owners

Getting your goods and/or services out into the world and, to a greater extent, to the international market is the ultimate goal of any business. Yet many entrepreneurs can find it difficult to achieve for many reasons.

CanExport can help you over those hurdles by offering a variety of funding programs to help you enter and compete in an international market. To date, CanExport has helped 1,700 businesses finance projects related to new export market development and, as a result, has directly helped these same businesses secure $376 million in new export sales.

It might be just about time for you to think about expanding your business into the international market, so take a moment to learn about how you can get funding to achieve that.

About CanExport

So here’s the upside and the downside of CanExport at the time of writing. The upside is that only 2 of 4 of its programs is currently open for applications. The downside is that 2 of the programs are on an administrative pause with no date announced as yet for when that pause will be over (they recommend you watch for news, so there’s still hope!)

As mentioned, CanExport is divided into 4 programs: CanExport SMEs, CanExport Innovation, CanExport Associations, and CanExport Community Investments.

  • CanExport SMEs helps small and medium-sized businesses find their footing in new international markets.
  • CanExport Innovation helps SMEs, postsecondary, and nongovernment research centres create R&D partnerships in foreign markets.
  • CanExport Associations helps national industry and/or trade associations seek and attain business development opportunities in international markets.
  • CanExport Community Investments helps Canadian-based nonprofits and Canadian communities attract, keep, and increase direct foreign investment.

How CanExport Works

Should you be interested in applying for the CanExport SMEs program to fund your project at a later date, know that this one funds projects such as applying for certification in foreign markets; translating, adapting, or creating material for international markets; gathering market intelligence; and more. You can even use the funding to attend tradeshows and conferences and such, but in this era of COVID-19, they’re focusing on funding the virtual versions, though depending on Government of Canada travel advisories, they may fund in-person events.

If it’s the CanExport Innovation you have your eye on, know that it funds projects such as applying for international intellectual property protection, finding legal and business experts to help you through the process, and shipping your technology outside of Canada to determine its feasibility with a partner’s technology. This program, though, will only fund virtual meetings and conferences, and it, too, is on an administrative pause.

Now if you’re a community or nonprofit looking to increase your exports or begin exporting, support innovation in your area, and/or create new jobs, CanExport Community Investments is for you when it reopens, likely in fall 2023.

And then we have CanExport Associations. This program is only open until January 10, 2023, so jump on this opportunity if this is the best-fitting program for you. This one funds export projects that benefit an entire industry with such activities as export training, working on international business development or market diversification plans, and more.

CanExport Eligibility

Eligibility requirements vary according to the program’s purpose, so let’s break down who qualifies for which program:

  • As the name suggests, CanExport SMEs must be for-profit businesses with less than 500 FTEs and between $100,000 to $100 million in revenues in the last year. You’ll also have to be incorporated, an LLP or cooperative, and have a CRA business number.
  • CanExport Innovation welcomes all businesses that are registered in Canada and have a CRA business number; own, co-own, or have the legal ability to make decisions regarding the IP rights; have a protype (Level 4 or higher) ready; and intend to launch the technology into the commercial market within the next 5 years.  
  • CanExport Community Investments is only open to Canadian communities and nonprofits.
  • The CanExport Associations program is now accepting applications from national industry associations and trade organizations. Just ensure that your project will benefit both members and nonmembers to qualify for funding.

How Much You Can Get from CanExport

So, of course, each program with CanExport offers different funding opportunities. This could change when the new application dates open, but for now, here’s how the funding for each program works:

  • CanExport SMEs applicants can expect to get up to $50,000 to develop international opportunities, but you are expected to pay 50% of project costs.
  • CanExport Innovation offers up to $75,000 to help you find and sign R&D agreements with foreign partners for a single technology. Here, CanExport will fund 75% of project costs, leaving you with just 25% to pay.
  • CanExport Community Investments issues grants of between $3,000 and $500,000 to cover up to 50% of project costs for successful community or nonprofit candidates.
  • CanExport Associations, again, still open to applications for a short time, provides up to $250,000/year for new or increased international business development. But remember, it must benefit your entire industry!

How to Apply for CanExport

When the remaining CanExport programs reopen for applications, applying is as easy as clicking a button. For the CanExport SMEs program, create an account to apply, but read the applicant guide and the FAQs before beginning to ease the process.

The process is similar for the remaining programs:

How to Maximize CanExport Funding

This is a unique program available to a select group of business, organizations, and communities, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t at least one tip to help you maximize your funding.

In this case, it’s best if you spend some time reading about those who have received funding before you. That way, you can learn about what they did and how they achieved their success and create the same success for you! To get you started, here are some past recipients of CanExport Associations funding.

The Bottom Line

While some of CanExport’s programs are currently not accepting applications, that doesn’t mean they won’t be any day, so read through the FAQs and applicant’s guide for the program that suits your business’s or community’s needs if expanding into an international market or creating new jobs is your next goal.

You could find yourself with up to 75% of your export project costs covered—without having to pay it back—depending on the program you apply to. Expanding your business and taking your products or services to international markets could open up a whole new world for your business, so think about taking advantage of CanExport’s programs and prepare your organization for when the programs once again reopen.


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