CanExport Guide (2020): 9 CanExport Grant Programs That Can Grow Your Business Internationally

CanExport is a federal program that offers funding for small and medium-sized businesses of all industries, plus business associations. The program is staffed with experienced trade commissioners, so they’re the go-to source for advice, coaching, and funding when it comes to exporting and getting your foot in the door of international markets.

Because they partner with the NRC IRAP program, they can even help you identify potential markets you may not have thought of, possible international partnerships, and new business opportunities you may not otherwise have known about.

Not only can they help you navigate international business waters, but they also have a program to encourage international research and development collaboration that includes funding.

Whether you’ve been thinking about expanding internationally or this has just piqued your interest, read on to learn about how CanExport can help your business. CanExport has something for all audiences and sectors.

CanExport for Businesses (SMEs)

The most popular of the CanExport’s programs, this funding program for small and medium-sized businesses has doled out $21 million dollars to help businesses gain a foothold in new markets since its inception in 2006, resulting in $376 million in total revenue.

You could get your $75,000 share of the funding if you’re a for-profit incorporated or limited liability partnership legal entity with a CRA business number (unless your Indigenous owned or led). Of course, you’ll also have claimed between $100,000 and $100 million in revenue in the last 12 months while at the same time having 500 employees or less.

You can use this funding to cover costs related to travel, market research, participating in international trade fairs, adapting or translating marketing tools, purchasing expert business or legal advice, and more. And you can even choose up to 5 markets to dive into. No need to restrict your business to just one!

Make sure you read through the applicant guide and FAQs before you apply so you know what’s involved, what to do, and what you need. If you still have questions, you can send the program an email.

When you’re ready, applying for the program is as easy as using their online application platform. There are no deadlines to apply, so apply whenever you’re able, but know that you need to do so no less than 3 months before your project is scheduled to begin because of the popularity of this program.

CanExport Innovation Program

For those small and medium-sized businesses with a research and development focus rather than an export focus, this program is for you. You’ll even qualify if you’re an academic institution or a nongovernment research centre.

Now you can collaborate with foreign partners to codevelop, validate, or adapt your technology for commercialization and get $75,000 in funding to help you do so. You’ll have to apply at least 8 weeks ahead of time, and there’s only so much funding available for this one, so it’s first come, first served. Get your application in as early in the year as you can!

There’s a fairly lengthy list of eligibility criteria, so take a look and ensure you meet them all if you’re interested in this funding:

  • You must be an employee of a Canadian organization.
  • You must have an already identified foreign partner.
  • You must have decision-making authority for the intellectual property.
  • Your organization must own or co-own the intellectual property.
  • Your organization must not be funded entirely by Canadian government organizations (federal, provincial, territorial, municipal, or Crown corporations).
  • Your organization must be one of the groups performing the research and development work resulting from the contractual agreement(s).
  • The research and development work must lead to the commercialization of a Canadian technology within 5 years.
  • You must demonstrate adequate managerial capabilities.
  • You must demonstrate clear benefit to the Canadian economy.

If you’ve made it through that list, still qualify, and are still interested, then you can move on to reading through the FAQs before you apply. Once you’ve done that though, you can apply online, and if you still have questions, you can send the program an email.

CanExport Associations

Here’s a funding program for national trade organizations to help cover the costs of creating new or expanding existing international business development opportunities for your members.

You could get up to $400,000, or up to 75% of project costs, for your organization if you’re a Chamber of Commerce or Business Council, a national industry or trade association, a regional sectoral industry association with a national perspective (in some cases), or a national horizontal/multi-sectoral organization.

These funds could be put toward projects such as trade shows or other events, networking functions, meetings, market visits, or export training. Or you could use it to create promotional and marketing tools and materials that promote integrative trade opportunities or for research, studies, international business development strategy updates, or market diversification strategies.

This one also has a lengthy list of eligibility criteria, so read through and make sure you fit all the qualifications before you apply:

  • be incorporated
  • don’t directly sell products sold by your members
  • demonstrate adequate managerial and marketing capabilities to execute activities and meet recipient requirements
  • have sufficient financial resources generated from private revenues to cover your share of proposed activities
  • have and submit copies of financial statements for the past 2 years
  • don’t have access to other federal contribution programs with similar objectives that support the international business development efforts of a specific sector (e.g., the AgriMarketing Program)
  • aren’t funded entirely by Canadian government organizations (federal, provincial, territorial, or municipal or Crown corporations)

Ready to move forward? Then start by reading through the FAQs before applying. Unfortunately, this program does have deadlines, and the call for applications is closed for this year. It will, however, reopen again in the fall, so check back often to be the first to apply for funding. In the meantime, you can always get in touch with them via email.

Accelerated Growth Services

To ensure high-growth Canadian companies can stay in Canada and continue to grow both at home and internationally, CanExport offers this program to help your business with everything from funding to advice to discovering new foreign markets.

If your business has shown year-over-year growth, especially over the last 3 years, has generated more than $5 million/year, and has the capacity and desire to keep growing at that rate or better, you could qualify. However, you’ll also have to be focused and export and innovation driven, not to mention be promoting sustainability, growing quickly, and creating jobs.

All you have to do is send an email! Really! After a short discussion, they’ll decide if you qualify to benefit from the program, and if not, you’ll likely at least qualify to talk to an Innovation Advisor, which could be beneficial in itself.

This is a program comprised of such core partners as Business Development Bank of Canada, Export Development Canada, Global Affairs Canada (Trade Commissioner Service), and the NRC IRAP program, plus numerous regional economic development agencies to total over 70 partners to help your business grow and succeed.

Know, however, that they aren’t taking new applicants right now, at least until the COVID-19 crisis has eased. But if you’re a manufacturer with facilities that can be retooled, or if you can supply products and services that could be helpful in some way, reach out to Public Services and Procurement Canada or to Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada. Keep checking back to see when they start accepting applications again though!

Canadian International Innovation Program

If your business is interested in collaborative industrial research and development projects with high potential for commercialization with another country or countries, then this one’s for you.

Designed to stimulate science and technology networking and partnering opportunities, this program offers seed funding to help your business accelerate the commercialization of your research and development.

They do, however, expect your business to also partner with other public and private sector partners to obtain additional funding and expertise. Current partner countries with requests for proposals expected to open soon include Brazil, China, India, and South Korea.

Three types of projects are eligible for funding with this program: technology adaptation, technology validation, and technology codevelopment. So if you have a project that fits into one of those categories and you’re also an incorporated Canadian SME developing technology for a new product, process, or service for civilian use; have a desire and the capability to source knowledge abroad by finding global talent to address technical gaps; need to collaborate globally to adapt your product, process, or service to meet other global market characteristics; your technology or product offers advantages in a foreign marketplace; and you have the finances to expand to new markets or could attract investment through development of your technology for global needs, then check out the Requests for Proposals page.

There, you’ll start by registering online, and then you can move through the expression of interest, international consortium project proposal, and national funding body proposal and funding agreement phases. The first two will be done in coordination with an NRC IRAP representative, and the last step is to be completed with all project partners working together to submit an International Consortium Project Proposal package to the appropriate national funding body that will be indicated for you during the previous steps.

And that’s just the Canadian application process! Once you’ve successfully navigated that process, you’ll then have to move on and complete the international partner application process, each of which will be different depending on the country.

You can take a look at the detailed program overview to learn more or send any questions to the program via email.

Business Women in International Trade

This program specifically created for Canadian SMEs that are at least 51% owned, managed, and controlled by one or more women offers benefits such as access to federal funding programs, expert export advice, international trade conventions and events, and exclusive contracts with governments and Fortune 500 companies by certifying your business as women-owned.

You can also build your business’s reputation with their awards program and utilize the program to help you find additional organizations and associations to help you grow your business. But don’t stop there! Take advantage of their publications and newsletter too, and most importantly, their step-by-step guide to exporting.

To get started, just send them an email, and don’t forget to connect with them on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Indigenous Business Export Support Program 

Much like the Business Women in International Trade program, the Indigenous Business Team, as part of Global Affairs Canada’s Trade Commissioner Service, works with Canadian businesses that are at least 51% owned, managed, and operated by Indigenous businesses or communities.

By joining the team, you could benefit from federal funding programs such as the Aboriginal Business and Entrepreneurship Development and the Entrepreneurship and Business Development Fund, gaining your business entrance to trade missions and events, opening up new export resources, learning about new business opportunities, and accessing their recognition and awards opportunities.

Apply for this program simply by taking a short quiz to determine your readiness to start exporting. Once you’ve qualified, you’ll open up ways to find market intelligence and reports, investigate new markets, connect with international contacts and buyers, discover free trade agreements and tariffs, and strengthen your support network with groups such as the Canadian Aboriginal and Minority Supplier Council and the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business.

Get in touch with them today to get started or ask questions by sending an email. Or, get expert advice from a trade commissioner near you.

Canadian Technology Accelerators

Are you a tech-based company and want to get your product to an international market? Well, CanExport also has an accelerator program to help you do just that.

When you qualify to take part, you’ll get everything from workspace in foreign markets, mentorship, and introductions to potential partners, investors, and customers.

Your business could qualify if you’re in cleantech, IT or communications, or life sciences and you can show you have traction in the marketplace, your product fits the market, you have a strong and experienced executive management team, and the potential to scale. Take a look at the in-depth criteria if you’d like to know even more.

Apply online now for opportunities in Tokyo, Hong Kong, and Taipei. Go through the list of required documents you’ll need before you apply though. If you want to know more about the accelerator program first, get in touch with your local Trade Commissioner Service regional office.

Wrapping Up

There are few ways to grow and expand your business better than beginning to export. Take advantage of the vast opportunities abroad rather than restricting yourself to a domestic market and partner with international businesses, gain valuable knowledge and insight, and fill any existing gaps in your own business.

The best part is there’s really nothing stopping you. There are so many programs and opportunities available with CanExport alone, let alone those available from all their partners. Get in touch with them, have a conversation, and see where exporting can take your business!


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