Start-ups & Youth Business
There are numerous private and government loans, grants, subsidies and other forms of financial assistance available to new and existing businesses in Ontario. Your business type, industry, location, size and ability to provide matching funds may all determine which programs will apply to you.
Browse through the table below to learn more about the financial assistance available and follow the links to learn more about each opportunity.
CanExport (Export; Manufacturing)
Grant: applicants may seek minimum funding of $10,000 per application (requires that the total cost of eligible activities be at least $20,000).The maximum annual CanExport funding per applicant is $99,999 (in the event of multiple subsequent projects being approved (CanExport reimburses up to 50 percent of eligible expenses but requires that applicants match funds on a one-to-one basis.)
CanExport provides financial support for a wide range of export marketing activities
To be considered for possible funding, the applicant must meet the following eligibility criteria:
- Be a for-profit company;
- Be an incorporated legal entity or a limited liability partnership (LLP);
- Have a Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) business number;
- Have a maximum of 500 full-time equivalent (FTE) employees; and
- Have no less than $100,000 and no more than $100 million in annual revenue declared in Canada during its last complete fiscal year. The CanExport program reserves the right to validate this through the company’s Financial Statements.
Career Focus (Workforce)
Grant: Up to $15,424
Career Focus aims to:
- Increase the supply of highly qualified workers;
- Facilitate the transition of highly-skilled young people to a rapidly changing labour market;
- Promote the benefits of advanced studies; and,
- Demonstrate federal leadership by investing in the skills required to meet the needs of the knowledge economy
To participate in Career Focus, youth must be:
- Between the ages of 15 and 30 (inclusive) at the time of intake/selection;
- Canadian citizens, permanent residents, or persons who have been granted refugee status in Canada
- Legally entitled to work according to the relevant provincial/territorial legislation and regulations
- Not in receipt of Employment Insurance (EI) benefits
Digital Main Street
The Province of Ontario and the Ontario BIA Association, Digital Main Street is offering two types of grants to help small main street businesses across Ontario strengthen their digital and online capabilities.
Futurpreneur (Youth Entrepreneurship)
Loan: up to $15,000, their partner Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) can provide additional financing of up to $30,000
Financing and mentoring for start-up business.
- 18 – 39 years old who are Canadian citizens or permanent residents currently living in Canada.
Impact Loan (Small Business)
Loan: up to $5,000 (Libro Credit Union’s Prime Rate + 2%)
Financing local enterprises to start or grow their business.
Meeting with coordinator
MaRS Embark Funding (Workforce)
Grant: Up to $20,000 in funding | Matching: 12.5% requested ($2,500 cash)
The Embark Funding program was developed to help startups hire a business role who will work with the venture to help reach specific goals or milestones. Application timelines are very specific, so please ensure you only consider this program during the accepted application window and project timelines.
<$1M in annual revenue, incorporated for 8 years or less, have at least 1 full-time employee, and can have venture backing of up to $2M ($3M for life sciences and cleantech companies). The company must also be a RIC member, not a subsidiary of a larger firm, and not have founders, staff, or contractors are not eligible candidates. Employee must not be an existing asset (although some exceptions are made on a case-by-case basis) or a paid advisor on contract at RIC, and must be aged 22-29.
MaRS Embedded Executive (Workforce)
Grant: Up to $50,000 | Matching: 30% requested ($15,000 cash)
This program is best suited for novel Ontario-based tech ventures in a later discovery stage or approaching validation and efficiency stage of development.
- Novel Ontario-based technology companies with a clear, sustainable technological or market advantage.
- The venture may have raised up to $2.5 million in total funding since its year established from sources such as venture capital, angel, personal capital, friends, family, government-funded investment programs and bank loans. This does not include funds raised from government research and development grants. In some exceptional cases, the venture may have raised up to $3.5 million in total funding. These exceptions include:
- Cleantech ventures developing capital-intensive assets such as energy storage and energy generation technologies.
- Life sciences ventures operating in the drug development, biotechnology, and medical and assistive device industries.
- The venture may be pre-revenue or have under $1.5 million in revenue for a given year.
- The venture cannot be a subsidiary of a larger parent company that would be ineligible.
- The venture must be established for at least one year and may not be established for more than eight years.
- The venture must have at least one full-time employee.
- The venture must be a client with a Regional Innovation Centre (RIC).
- Ventures with founders, staff or contractors that may also be a paid advisor, EIR or staff on contract at a RIC are not eligible.
- Ventures that were recipients of the November 2017 round of Embedded Executive funding are not eligible to apply for this round of funding.
- Ventures who have received funding from this program in the past should demonstrate a recurring need which will be considered on review.
MITACS Accelerate (Workforce)
Grant: $15,000 | Matching: $7,500
Accelerate Entrepreneur funds student entrepreneurs to further develop the research or technology at the core of their business when hosted by an incubator facility. Mitacs funding helps student entrepreneurs to take real, meaningful advantage of the supports provided by the incubator, with the goal of commercializing the technology, product, or service rapidly. In a nutshell, they get paid to grow their company and get to market faster.
- Full-time students at all Canadian colleges and full-time grad students at all Canadian universities
- Full-time graduate students in select Mitacs partner countries (visit the Accelerate International tab for more details)
- Canadian citizens, permanent
NRC IRAP - Youth Employment Program (Workforce)
Grant: up to $30,000
The Youth Employment Program offers financial assistance to offset the cost of hiring young talent to work on projects with R&D, engineering, multimedia or market analysis components or to help develop a new product or process.
Your business must be:
- A small or medium-sized business (500 or fewer full-time equivalents)
- Incorporated and for-profit
- Ready to enhance your innovation capacity and willing to partner with NRC IRAP
NSERC Alliance Grants (Commercialization)
Grant: up to $25,000
For college-based and university-based applicants
Technical criteria, Industrial relevance and potential for innovation impact, Industrial participation and plan for technology transfer, Benefit to Canada
OCE Market Readiness Program (Commercialization)
Investment: up to $250,000
- On behalf of the Government of Ontario, OCE supports early-stage companies that are raising pre-seed and seed investments (total round sizes range from $500,000 to $2 million). Market Readiness is a competitive co-investment fund. With more than 300 companies considered for funding each year, OCE completes 30-40 investments a year.
- Companies that have raised less than $1 million in third-party capital (excludes friends and family) are eligible for their first MR investment.
- Incorporated for no more than five years (Ontario or Canadian for-profit incorporation) and have principal operations in Ontario.
- Currently or previously affiliated with a campus linked accelerator, incubator, or on-campus entrepreneurship activities in Ontario, or currently or previously affiliated with a Regional Innovation Centre and have previously received funding from other OCE programs (excluding the TalentEdge Program).
- Companies with their team/IP origin at a university (“university spin-out”), college or research hospital are also eligible, even if not Campus-Linked Accelerator-affiliated.
- Market Readiness is a competitive co-investment fund.
- Companies are reviewed through a rigorous internal pre-vetting process before being selected to proceed to an investment advisory committee for consideration.
- Companies will be evaluated based on their potential long-term competitiveness, strong IP, unique value proposition and momentum/capacity to scale.
- Preference will be given to companies that exhibit a unique offering that differentiates them in the marketplace.
OCE SmartStart Seed Fund (Workforce)
Fund: up to $7,500 | Matching: 1:1 cash
Entrepreneurship skills training to help grow start-up companies and make them investment and customer-ready
- Canadian citizen or have Permanent Residency;
- 18+ years old, and
- Equity and key position in company
OCE TalentEdge Fellowship Program (TFP)
Grant: up to $70,000 » $35,000 per 12-month unit (fellowship) ($25,000 cash plus $25,000 in-kind from the company per 12-month unit)
The TalentEdge Fellowship Program (TFP) provides support for PhD graduates and post-doctoral fellows to work on industry-driven research and development projects. Companies can tap into world-class talent coming out of Ontario's publicly-funded post-secondary institutions and strengthen their capacity to develop new products, services and processes while fellows receive hands-on industry experience and mentorship opportunities.
- Project-based with clearly defined R&D activities, milestones and outcomes to be completed within the fellowship duration
OCE TalentEdge Internship Program (TIP) (Workforce)
Grant: up to $60,000 » $10,000 per four-month unit (internship) ($5,000 cash plus $5,000 in-kind from the company per four-month unit)
The TalentEdge Internship Program (TIP) provides support for current college and university students and recent undergraduate or Masters graduates, to work on industry-driven research and development projects. Companies can tap into world-class talent coming out of Ontario's publicly-funded post-secondary institutions and strengthen their capacity to develop new products, services and processes while interns receive hands-on industry experience and mentorship opportunities.
- Open to all disciplines
Ontario Interactive Digital Media Tax Credit (Digital Media)
Tax Credit: up to $100,000 of eligible marketing and distribution expenditures related to a non-specified product can be included.
The Ontario Interactive Digital Media Tax Credit (OIDMTC) is a refundable tax credit based on eligible Ontario labour expenditures and eligible marketing and distribution expenses claimed by a qualifying corporation with respect to interactive digital media products.
A qualifying corporation is a Canadian corporation (Canadian or foreign-owned), which develops an eligible product at a permanent establishment in Ontario operated by it, and files an Ontario tax return.
Rural Innovation Initiatives - Regional Stream (Export; Manufacturing)
Grant: selected projects will be eligible for a non-repayable performance-based contribution and require a minimum 50 percent cash contribution by the recipient on eligible expenses net of HST. The minimum project size for an Eastern Ontario Innovation Initiative
Eastern Ontario Innovation Initiative made possible with funding from the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario) supports the transition and growth of traditional SMEs, manufacturers and communities into the new rural economy, driving direct investments by private companies in innovation capital producing aggregate local and regional effects.
Eligible recipients located in Eastern Ontario may include:
- Private, for-profit, high growth SMEs with potential for accelerated growth through a continuum of innovation
- Fourth Pillar Not-For-Profit organizations supporting businesses and the regional advancement of innovation
Starter Company Plus (Small Business)
Grant: up to $5,000 (contribution of 25% of grant in cash or in kind)
One-on-one guidance from a business advisor, Mentoring from a local entrepreneur, Training through business workshops, Business experience that could help you obtain other traditional financing
- 18+ years old; and
- Not attending school full-time
Steel and Aluminum Initiative (Export; Manufacturing)
Funding: minimum funding request of $150,000 up to a maximum of $1 million
Funding under this initiative helps small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that use significant amounts of steel and aluminium in their production processes and are looking to adopt innovative technologies to enhance productivity or to increase competitiveness.
Applicants must meet the following eligibility criteria:
- Businesses such as: partnerships, social enterprises, incorporated companies, corporations or co-operatives, or an Indigenous organization such as Indigenous/First Nation/Métis Settlement owned businesses, and all other types of enterprises;
- Employ between 10 to 499 individuals on a full-time basis in Canada;
- Intensive users of steel or aluminum (i.e., steel and/or aluminum expenditures are equal to or greater than 20 percent of total cost of goods sold); and
- Capable of demonstrating plans for projects pursuing productivity enhancements, and/or innovations to augment firm competiveness.
Strategic Innovation Initiatives (Export; Manufacturing)
Grant: experience shows that the government's share of funding for a given project usually varies from 10% of project costs up to 50% in exceptional cases. SIF funding is project-based where a portion of eligible project costs are reimbursed.
The program has five Streams, each with its own precise objective:
- Stream 1: Encourage R&D that will accelerate technology transfer and commercialization of innovative products, processes and services;
- Stream 2: Facilitate the growth and expansion of firms in Canada;
- Stream 3: Attract and retain large scale investments to Canada;
- Stream 4: Advance industrial research, development and technology demonstration through collaboration between the private sector, researchers and non-profit organizations; and
- Stream 5: Support large-scale, national innovation ecosystems through high impact collaborations across Canada.
The Applicant must be a for-profit corporation—small, medium or large-sized—incorporated pursuant to the laws of Canada and proposing to carry on business in Canada. As announced in the 2018 federal budget, the SIF will now focus its support on projects requesting at least $10 million in contributions.
Summer Company (Youth Entrepreneurship)
Grant: up to $3,000 ($1,500 up front and $3,000 upon program completion)
start-up money to kick-off a new summer business, advice and mentorship from local business leaders to help get the business up and running
- Go to high school, college or university;
- Live in Ontario;
- Canadian citizen or permanent resident;
- 15 to 29 years old;
- Not running a business; and
- Not working or going to school for more than 12 hours/week
Sustainable Development Technology Fund (Export; Manufacturing)
Grant: on average 33% (up to 40%) of eligible projects costs
Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC) is a foundation created by the Government of Canada to support Canadian companies with the potential to become world leaders in their efforts to develop and demonstrate new environmental technologies that address climate change, clean air, clean water and clean soil.
DTC’s mandate is to fund projects that support Canadian small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) advancing innovative technologies that are pre-commercial and have the potential to demonstrate significant and quantifiable environmental and economic benefits in one or more of the following areas: climate change, clean air, clean water and clean soil.
Yves Landry Foundation (Workforce)
Grant: up to $100,000
This program supports the adaptation of new technology, new processes or procedures to assist manufacturers in south, central or eastern Ontario. Its goal is to develop highly skilled personnel in any area that leads to innovation. Ideal projects include the development of new engineering skills, training on new software, hardware or other tools that support innovation within a manufacturing facility. This federally funded program embraces new technologies or new manufacturing methods to increase your capacity to build a competitive advantage in the global marketplace.
National Social Value Fund (Social Enterprises)
This fund incorporates many various programs for undergraduate students and social enterprises looking to hire and train undergraduate students. It's goal is to pair employers with hardworking undergraduate students interested in particular causes and looking for work. These programs span many possibilities of work through the program run.
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