Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Guide (2020): 12 NOHFC Funding Programs for Northern Ontario Businesses

The Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation exists to support economic development in the vast reaches of Northern Ontario. The idea is to create jobs and strengthen the economy through the use of strategic partnerships.

The corporation has 6 programs designed to help your business grow and succeed in Northern Ontario, 2 of which are split into 4 streams apiece. There are programs for existing businesses, start-ups, and events. Find funding for research and development, capacity building, infrastructure, and internships. There’s something for every Northern Ontario entrepreneur here, so read on to learn more about each program and how you can participate.

NOHFC Programs

Northern Business Opportunity Program

This is the first funding program that’s divided into 4 streams, all of which are intended to encourage productivity, expansion, and global investment in northern communities.

Business Expansion Projects


The first is the Business Expansion Projects program. This one is designed to fund existing businesses that intend to expand and or retain their operations within Northern Ontario to improve competitiveness, increase productivity, export, grow revenues, and create jobs. Only businesses operating in these sectors will be considered, however:

  • advanced manufacturing
  • agriculture, aquaculture, and food processing
  • arts, culture, and creative industries
  • digital economy
  • forestry and value-added forestry-related industries
  • health sciences
  • minerals sector and mining supply and services
  • renewable energy and services
  • tourism
  • transportation, aviation, and aerospace
  • water technologies and services

On the other hand, if you operate in another sector and can make a strong case that your business will offer an economic development advantage to Northern Ontario, they may still consider funding you.

Should you make it through the eligibility stage, you could get up to 50% of total eligible project costs up to a maximum of $1 million/project, though the program may consider going beyond that $1 million cap for exceptional projects.

Funding isn’t completely straightforward though as they offer their funding in 3 different ways:

  • a conditional grant only to a maximum of 20% of total eligible costs or $400,000, whichever is less
  • a conditional grant to a maximum of 20% of total eligible costs or $400,000, whichever is less, plus a repayable loan to a maximum of 30% of total eligible costs or $600,000, whichever is less
  • a repayable loan only to a maximum of 50% of total eligible costs or $1,000,000, whichever is less

You can easily apply online for this funding, but applications close on June 30, 2020, so get yours in soon!

Small Business Start-up Projects


Start-ups can find some rare, elusive funding if you’re building a business in an existing and emerging priority economic sector such as these:

  • advanced manufacturing
  • agriculture, aquaculture, and food processing
  • arts, culture, and creative industries
  • digital economy
  • forestry and value-added forestry-related industries
  • health sciences
  • minerals sector and mining supply and services
  • renewable energy and services
  • tourism
  • transportation, aviation, and aerospace
  • water technologies and services

As with the previous stream though, they may consider funding a start-up in a valuable sector not included here.

This is a dual-contribution program, however, so you’ll be expected to contribute 15% of the costs yourself, but the program will fund up to 50% of project costs up to $200,000. Partnerships are accepted with this program, but they still won’t fund any more than $200,000/project. And don’t sell your company within 3 years of receiving funding, or you’ll have to pay it all back.

You’ll also need a business plan to apply, plus you’ll be expected to run your business full time once approved and to create jobs in Northern Ontario.

But you can apply for this one online too, and it too closes on June 30, 2020.

New Investment Projects


Entrepreneurs who run a competitive business elsewhere but don’t have a presence yet in Ontario can use this program to help fund expansion into Northern Ontario, provided your expansion will create jobs in the area.

Your application will be given priority if you will not only create jobs but can also show your business has the ability to become a new anchor for investments and/or will support regional cluster development. It also helps if your business operates in one of the priority sectors mentioned in the above streams. Know you’ll also have to disclose any additional sources of funding when you apply.

Funding for this stream comes in the form of a conditional grant or a combination of a conditional grant and term loan/incentive term loan on a case-by-case basis. They’ll determine which suits your case after you apply.

For this one, you must begin by scheduling a pre-application consultation session with NOHFC staff. Just give them a call at 1-800-461-8329, and then you can apply online at their direction. This stream also stops accepting applications on June 30, 2020.

Film and Television Industry Projects


The aim of this funding program is two-pronged. The first goal is to increase film and television industry jobs and investment in Northern Ontario and the number of high quality, original film and television productions produced in Northern Ontario. The second is to build and encourage infrastructure to grow and support the industry.

There are generally 3 rounds of calls for applications, but there are only 2 left in 2020: June 15 to 26 and October 26 to November 6. Pay close attention to any required documents they specify on the application form that need to be submitted along with the application.

The list of eligibility criteria is quite lengthy, but here’s a few examples:

  • You must be a Canadian corporation and Canadian controlled.
  • You must own all the rights necessary to exploit and produce the production.
  • Projects with a total budget of less than $1 million must be produced by an Ontario resident.

However, all theatrical feature films, made-for-television movies, and television drama series are eligible for funding.

If you make it through the eligibility criteria, your business could get funding in the form of a conditional grant up to 50% of eligible costs to a maximum of $500,000, but they too are only accepting application until June 30, 2020, so get started. Apply online now!

Northern Innovation Program

This is the second program divided into 4 streams. The purpose of this funding program is to encourage the development and commercialization of new technologies that will contribute to the future prosperity of Northern Ontario. This prosperity is to be realized through partnerships between the private sector, academic institutions and research institutes, and the government. Keep reading for more detail about each of the 4 streams.

Opportunity Assessment Projects

This program is as straightforward as its name suggests. It aims to help your business identify opportunities for new technology development projects.

To qualify for this funding, you must be researching, developing, or commercializing new technology in one of these priority sectors:

  • natural resources
  • advanced manufacturing
  • clean technology
  • health sciences
  • the bioeconomy
  • the digital economy

In addition to the funding, they’ll also ensure you have the vital decision-making information you need about the overall feasibility of your proposed project to justify the additional investments of time and money.

Northern Ontario for-profit businesses are to be the one to apply, and your partner must be a nonprofit organization, whether a college, university, innovation centre, or other qualifying entity. You can even have 2 partners if it’s necessary for the successful completion of your project.

You could get up funding up to 75% of your eligible costs covered, to a maximum of $15,000 with this program. So apply online today to get your money because applications are no longer accepted as of June 30, 2020.

Applied Research & Technology Development Projects

No need to wonder at the purpose of this stream. Use this funding for applied research or pre-commercialization activities you need to conduct to further develop your new technology and move it to market.

Again, they much prefer your technology fall within the priority sectors listed in the above stream.

All for-profit businesses in Northern Ontario qualify, whether alone or in partnership with an Ontario academic or research institution, but you’ll receive preference if you partner up.

Should your business be accepted into the program, you can expect to receive funding of no more than 50% of eligible costs to a maximum of $250,000, but only as long as your total government funding doesn’t exceed 50% of eligible project costs.

With criteria that easy to meet, there’s every reason to apply for this stream. Just apply online before June 30, 2020.

Pilot Demonstration & Commercialization Projects

Take a closer look at this one if your business is ready to scale up and demonstrate your new and innovative technology. The funding from this program will help your business ramp up for commercial production in the priority sectors previously listed for this program.

Again, as with the above program, for-profit businesses are eligible to apply alone or in partnership with an Ontario academic or research institution, but you’ll get preferential treatment if you partner.

You, as the for-profit, will have to own or have the rights to the intellectual property and be able to show your technology has been tested and fully validated and has the necessary technical, financial, and management capacity to complete the demonstration.

And make sure your partner has the relevant expertise and resources you need!

Then you could find your business with funding up to 50% of eligible costs to a maximum of $500,000. Your total government funding can only add up to 50% of all eligible costs though.

Again, as with all the other programs and streams, apply online before June 30, 2020.

Industrial Research Chairs

This last stream is a funding program just for Northern Ontario academic and research organizations. The goal is to create increased research capacity at Northern Ontario universities, colleges, and research institutes that will lead to greater research opportunities in the aforementioned priority sectors for this stream.

The idea here is to transform Northern Ontario’s key economic sectors so they can in turn help attract and retain highly qualified personnel to the area.

To qualify for funding, you’ll have to partner with a for-profit business with a credible plan, the expertise and resources needed, and the financial support required. They’ll also have to be actively involved in your project.

But if you’ve got, or can get, that, you could get funding of up to 50% of eligible costs to a maximum of $1 million for the duration of your project. But you’ll have to apply online before June 30, 2020!

Strategic Economic Infrastructure Program

The point of this program is abundantly clear: to support infrastructure projects in Northern Ontario with the aim of creating jobs and building capacity in northern communities.

Municipalities, First Nations, nonprofit corporations, and educational institutions can apply for this funding alone, but for-profits can partner with one of these institutions to participate.

Other partnerships involving those eligible groups plus local service boards can also apply.

A vast array of infrastructure projects qualify, but some examples could include brownfield site redevelopment and/or infill development and information and communications technology infrastructure.

If you’re accepted into the program, you could get funding up to 50% or $1 million in either forgivable performance loans or repayable loans, depending on the board’s decision.

Take a look at their guidelines to learn more about what qualifies and what doesn’t, and apply before June 30, 2020, if you want to take part. Apply online by clicking the Apply Now button at the bottom of the page.

Northern Community Capacity Building Program

Can your business help develop the capacity to promote, attract, and support economic growth in existing and emerging priority economic sectors in Northern Ontario?

Then apply for this one—before June 30, 2020—to help fund your project(s). All municipalities, First Nations, local service boards, nonprofit organizations, and educational institutions, either involved in economic development or representing an eligible sector, can apply individually. For-profits and the federal government are allowed as partners.

Possible projects eligible with this program are even more extensive than with the previous program and include such examples as infrastructure requirement studies and strategic planning.

Read more about the guidelines for this program before you apply, but once you’ve applied and have been accepted, you could expect to get 75% or $50,000, whichever is less, for community projects and 75% or $100,000, whichever is less, for regional, partnership-based projects.

You can also apply online for this funding too by clicking the Apply Now button at the bottom of the page.

Northern Event Partnership Program

This one’s for you if your business is staging an event that promotes economic development in Northern Ontario and will encourage job creation and retention, investment attraction, tourism, and/or research and development/innovation intended to result in increased productivity in an existing and emerging priority economic sector.

Eligible entities are identical to the Northern Community Capacity Building Program (above), but costs such as alcohol, awards, and gifts are not covered.

You will, however, get up to 30% of eligible costs covered, to a maximum of $15,000, but you could get more if needed if you can show your event will have a significant economic benefit on your area.

Click the Apply Now button at the bottom of the screen to apply now. Applications close on June 30, 2020.

NOHFC Internship Program

Internship programs such as this one benefit you, your intern, and your community. The goal is to attract and retain graduates in Northern Ontario with the hopes of strengthening Northern Ontario’s competitive advantage and building its economic development capacity.

All Northern Ontario businesses, including partnerships, qualify for this program, but those in the identified priority sectors are given preference, such as in health sciences, minerals, mining supply and services, and renewable energy and services. Retail and operational positions do not qualify.

Eligible interns will have graduated in the last 3 years, and this must be their first job in their industry. They must also be legal residents of Canada, and they can only participate in the program once.

Familiarize yourself with all the program guidelines before you apply, but once you have and you’ve been accepted, you could get multiyear funding of up to 90% of wages, up to $31,500, for nonprofits and 50% of wages, up to $31,500, for for-profits.

Apply before June 30, 2020, to benefit!

Cut to the Chase

You could ensure your own success by contributing to the growth and infrastructure of Northern Ontario when you participate in any of these funding programs. Find funds to grow or start a business, to hire an intern, or to stage an event in the north that will draw tourists to the area and create jobs.

The possibilities are endless with this funding organization, and you could even find yourself with funds to move your business to Northern Ontario if you’re adventurous enough!

To find out more about their programs or ask questions, you can give them a call toll free at 1-800-461-8329, fill out the contact form, or send an email.


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One Comment

  1. We have a small design, sourcing and marketing company, focused on family games and gifts that are distributed to the specialty outdoor retail market, such as MEC, and Algonquin Outfitters here in Huntsville.

    As with many companies today faced with the new challenges in traditional distribution channels, we have had to focus on and learn more about digital tools, platforms and direct to consumer marketing/sales.

    We have learned a lot in the past few months! After some trial and error, we believe we are ready to implement a full digital marketing and sales strategy.

    But we need help, which could be a great part time ‘work from home’ job for a student or someone who is fluent in, and can navigate through todays digital world. However we have a very limited budget.

    Can you recommend a program or 2?

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