The National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC IRAP) is one of Canada’s leading federal R&D grant programs. IRAP aims to accelerate the growth of small to medium-sized Canadian businesses that create new and innovative technology.
This program helps entrepreneurs commercialize their innovations onto the market and create profitable businesses out of it. Support is offered to businesses through financial assistance, advisory services, and industry expertise. Ultimately, the objective is to encourage wealth creation in Canada through innovation.
Amount: Up to 80% of labour costs and 50% of contractor fees for projects funded up to $10 million.
R&D/Technology Innovation Projects
IRAP R&D projects use technology to create new or improved products/services, achieve growth, and provide profitable benefits to Canada. Companies can receive contributions for up to 80% of salaries and 50% of contractor fees. With a funding threshold of up to $10 million per project, there is plenty of support available for small and medium-sized businesses.
Youth Employment Program (YEP)
The IRAP Youth Employment Program equips young Canadians with the knowledge and experience to secure good employment. Financial assistance is offered to incentivize businesses to hire Canadian youth aged 15 to 30 years old. Additionally, post-secondary graduates must be in the science, engineering, technology, business, or liberal arts fields and work in a full-time position relevant to their degree. Internships will last for 6 to 12 months, and companies can receive up to $30,000 in grants.
NRC IRAP International Collaboration
The NRC is partnered with Global Affairs Canada and other global organizations to support businesses with international interests. There are a variety of programs to choose from according to your project’s needs:
– Bpifrance: NRC’s partnership with the French agency supports growth and innovation for small to medium-sized businesses in both countries.
– Canadian International Innovation Program (CIIP): In collaboration with Global Affair Canada’s Trade Commissioner Service, they offer funding to help Canadian businesses with international partners. Businesses can commercialize their industrial R&D projects and work with partners in Brazil, China, India, Israel, or South Korea.
– CanExport: NRC and Global Affairs Canada’s TCS provide financial assistance to encourage international business development. Support is available for Canadian businesses looking for improved export opportunities and emerging markets.
– EUREKA: A network of national programs and partners that enable Canadian innovators to access foreign markets. Over 40 member countries are available for collaborations under EUREKA.
Businesses must claim IRAP under 1 of the 5 divisions of work:
Transportation & Manufacturing
When Can I Apply?
The NRC accepts applications on a rolling basis. While there are no specific deadlines, it’s recommended to get in touch with an industrial technology advisor (ITA) before April 1. This way, you can learn more about project eligibility and funding cycles for the upcoming fiscal year.
Companies must complete projects during the same fiscal year they filed for IRAP. For instance, between April 1 of the current year and March 31 of the following year.
1. Determine company eligibility
If your company meets the criteria described earlier, contact the NRC IRAP to receive an evaluation. Before you call, have the following documents available for discussion purposes:
Once it’s been determined that your project benefits from the grant, the NRA will refer you to an industrial technology advisor (ITA).
2. Speak with an advisor
ITAs will help you craft a proposal based on your specific business needs and ensure a successful application. You must identify elements like business strategy, issues or risks faced, opportunities for growth, and plans for the future. This will allow the ITA to develop and recommend optimal strategies to address any weak points.
To have the most productive and constructive discussion, prepare to talk about various business topics. For example, your company overview, project description, key team members, budget and funding, economic benefits, and more.
3. Develop and assess the IRAP proposal
Without a doubt, an ITA is your most valuable resource during this process. So, be honest and transparent with your ITA to optimize the proposal’s chance of success. Furthermore, It’s imperative that the information provided on the formal proposal is accurate and timely. Therefore, delivering the most precise and complete information possible will help prevent delays.
4. Start the project and submit reports
If they approve your proposal, the project will start to receive funding. Then, your company can proceed with executing the project. The ITA will continue to assist you and provide advice, so be open with them about the project’s progress. To reiterate, keep reporting in a timely and accurate manner!
During your discussion with an ITA, there will be an abundance of questions regarding your project. This is necessary to get a thorough understanding of your company, and if it’s promising enough to move on with this program. There are numerous stages of assessments, so it’s vital to establish a solid base of knowledge or evidence that communicates the value and vision of your company. This will give you a greater chance of proceeding.
Luckily, we are very knowledgeable in this area. Through our own experiences with ITA interviews, we’ve highlighted 5 major topics of discussion and provided insights to help you prepare for key points of emphasis.
First and foremost, an introduction to your company is always needed. Start off with an elevator pitch – who you are, what the company sells, what problem you solve, your clients, etc. Then, you can delve deeper into details including financials, results, and growth as the interview continues. The ITA should start to get an understanding of your innovation and why it’s competitive in the market.
This ties into the company background, but is more specifically centered around value. Typical elements you will discuss are key partners, activities, customers, and cost structure. However, there is special emphasis placed on your value propositions; how you create, capture, and deliver value. We will continue to revisit this idea, as it is a significant selling point and differentiator for your company.
Your current situation with R&D is incredibly important to ITAs. As a competitive program, the NRC would get bombarded with applications if they accepted companies that are only looking to do R&D with financial assistance. As a result, the government is looking for companies that have a commitment to R&D and would continue to be, regardless of additional funding. So, prepare to talk about your R&D operations, team, goals, and any proof of its potential success. If you want government funding, there must be proof that a large R&D project can be run successfully and accelerated with the extra assistance.
Evidently, an ITA is also meant to assess your fit with IRAP. Consider criteria like technological advancement and innovative impact, as discussed earlier. Since there is no singular “image” of an eligible company at a glance, the extent of eligibility is determined on a case-by-case basis by the ITA. In addition, there will likely be discussion about other similar federal programs, like SR&ED, and your experience with them.
Ultimately, the success of your innovation must provide a positive impact to Canada. A “positive impact” can be described as an increase in revenue, job creation, social impact, environmental impact, and impact on the ecosystem. It is not mandatory to check every box, but is meant to be a point of consideration. Ideally, top candidates would target a couple or a few of these benefits in their mission. This contributes to the idea of your project providing value to society, thus earning the opportunity for valuable funding.
Since IRAP is a highly competitive program, the government can only select top candidates to proceed with funding. Here, meeting standard eligibility requirements just isn’t enough. If the value and interest of your company can be effectively pitched to your ITA, then sold to their higher-ups, your company will move on. While this is a lot of pressure, remember that you’re never alone! We are here to help and support you to maximize your chance of success.
IRAP vs SR&ED
The NRC IRAP and SR&ED programs are distinct, but similar in purpose. Businesses can claim both programs simultaneously, but should note the differences in timelines. For IRAP, an ITA assists with the proposal and submits it before a project starts. Meanwhile, SR&ED expenses are claimed after they’re incurred and filed with year-end corporate tax returns.
For more details about the SR&ED program, refer to our SR&ED tax credit page. If you’re curious about specific calculations under these programs, let’s get in touch! We can explain the funding breakdowns your project can potentially receive.
Video – IRAP Overview
Curious for more? If yes, then watch this video of a representative from the National Research Council. Listen as he provides an overview of IRAP and its business benefits.
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