On March 22nd, the Canadian government unveiled its national budget for 2017. Billed as the “innovation budget,” the budget is part of the federal government’s Innovation and Skills Plan, a strategy for supporting startups and growth companies across the nation’s manufacturing, agri-food, cleantech, digital/tech and health/bioscience sectors.
Some of the highlights of the budget include:
- Superclusters: $950 million earmarked for a funding program to support and develop “superclusters” (business-led incubators and accelerators, B2B partnerships and other innovation networks);
- Cleantech: Major commitments to data initiatives and business development funds in support of the cleantech sector, including dedicated funds for equity investment and working capital, totalling 1.4 billion in new financing for the sector;
- AI: The budget contains details on a Pan-Canadian Artificial Intelligence Strategy, backed with a $125 million funding program, to support collaboration on AI initiatives in major Canadian centres;
- Venture Capital: A commitment of $400 million over three years to a “Venture Capital Catalyst” initiative, developed and administered in partnership with the Business Development Bank of Canada;
- Mobility: We’ve written about the Global Skills Strategy in this space before. The budget includes a $7.8-million investment into this strategy; and
- Easier Navigation: The government is promising to review its support programs for innovation businesses (including the popular SR&ED program) to ensure a streamlined experience; additionally, a new client service platform called Innovation Canada will be established to help entrepreneurs navigate the revised suite of programs.
BetaKit and the Globe & Mail have both published detailed recaps of the budget announcement. Reactions to the announcement have been mainly positive – for example, the Toronto Star has published an opinion piece that is supportive of the government’s focus on cleantech. However, not all reactions have been supportive: a Macleans piece laments a missed opportunity to invest more broadly in skills-based training to fuel the domestic labour market, particularly for emerging companies outside the research university or incubator/accelerator context.
For full information on the Innovation and Skills Plan and about the 2017 federal budget, visit the Government of Canada’s microsite.