Applicants for government grant programs are never guaranteed approval, as there is a range of factors at play impacting their eligibility. It is best to maximize your chances of approval by focusing on aspects of your business that you have some control over. It is worth noting that preparing business grant applications takes a significant amount of time.
One of the main factors that you have control over is timing. Essentially, this means that you can control when you submit your grant application. One of the questions our grant team at RDP is continually asked by clients is: to maximize my chances of approval, when would be the optimal time to submit my grant application?
Before we explore the answer to the above question, it is important to note that almost all grant programs are forward-looking, meaning that retroactive costs almost never qualify. So regardless of the situation, it is always best to apply well in advance of a project or activity.
Most government grant programs typically have two different submission timeline intake requirements that may affect the timing of your application: Fixed Intake and Continuous intake.
A Fixed Intake is when a grant program gives you a specific deadline or intake period to submit your application. For example, the Summer Jobs Grant, which covers 50% of the minimum wage for any student hire, started accepting applications in December 2017 and stopped accepting applications on February 7, 2018. You have approximately a two-month timeframe to submit an application. In the fixed in-take period, all applications submitted are judged on merit alone, as the applications submitted in that timeframe are evaluated equally. Applications submitted on either December 15, 2017, or February 7, 2018, will be given equal consideration by the government (unless they explicitly state otherwise). In a Fixed Intake program, there is a set amount of funding allocated by that program for that specific intake period with most qualified applications funded until the pool of funds is depleted.
In contrast, grant programs with Continuous Intake processing are open all year round with no specific deadline. For example, the newly launched Strategic Innovation Fund (SIF)—opened in July 2017—has been accepting applications on a continuous basis. With SIF’s rising popularity, the government has received over 1,000 applications with the volume of submissions increasing rapidly. In this case, applications are not only judged based on merit but also on a first-come, first-serve basis until the end of the government fiscal year. The funding eventually gets replenished at the start of the next government fiscal year, which is April 1st. If a grant program evaluates applications on a continuous basis, competition for it is much greater as applications are not only based on merit but also timing.
The majority of top funding grants that are available to small- and medium-sized businesses tend to have a continuous intake evaluation for applications. A few examples of such funds include:
- CanExport: It covers 50% and up to $100,000 in export marketing costs for entering a new foreign country;
- Canada Ontario Job Grant (COJG): It covers 2/3rds of the training cost for any third party training;
- Industrial Research Assistance Program (IRAP): It covers 50% or up to $150,000 for future innovative R&D projects;
- Export Market Access (EMA): It covers 50% or up to $30,000 in tradeshow costs outside of Canada;
- NSERC, OCE, ICTC Co-op Hiring Grants: These programs cover a range of $4,500-$15,000 in hiring a co-op student or full-time hire under the age of 30;
- Strategic Innovation Fund: It covers 50% of total project costs for innovative R&D, business expansion, and collaborative projects;
The above grant programs are renewed annually, which means their budget is reset with new funding on April 1, the start of government fiscal year. When you are in the back-end of government fiscal year (December – March), it becomes far more difficult to get applications approved. Program judges tend to scrutinize more applications and the applications that are eventually approved are likely to receive less funding than requested by the applicants.
As the government fiscal year winds down, the budget pool gets smaller and competition for funds gets tougher. Therefore, it would be best to plan for major projects and activities to start on or after April 1st. To maximize your chances of approval, it is strongly recommended that applications be submitted as soon as the government has replenished its budget (or leading up to that replenishment if the funding commitments for future years have already been announced).
Planning is a key element of government grants and having an internal timeline in your department on submission dates is the best approach for increasing your chances for success with government grants.
For information on any of the above programs, contact RDP’s grants team for help with planning and submitting your grants applications: