Innovation Superclusters Initiative: Protein Industries Supercluster

Guide on Innovation Superclusters Initiative

Canada’s Innovation Supercluster Initiative is a program designed to bring together partners in industry, academia and the not-for-profit sector around project-based collaboration. The idea is that, by combining the strengths and capabilities of these different kinds of organizations and adding some government funding, Superclusters can help generate economic growth and technology leadership in Canada. 

Supercluster programs are open to companies of any size, and funding works through co-investment in projects that involve a consortium of partners from different organizations. ‘Co-investment’ simply means that the government matches the investment of a consortium of partners dollar-for-dollar, up to certain maximum levels, depending on the Supercluster.

To date, the program has supported more than 325 projects, including 1330+ partner organizations and over $565 million in government funding. By March 2023, ISED will invest up to $950 million in the program.

Each of the five Superclusters is an independent, not-for-profit entity focused on a particular industry sector with their own membership rules and guidelines for selecting and funding projects. The five Superclusters are Digital Technology, Protein Industries, Advanced Manufacturing, Scale AI and Ocean. In addition, each Supercluster has a set of different programs, each with its own goals and criteria.  

Protein Industries Supercluster

The Protein Industries Supercluster, also known as Protein Industries Canada (PIC), is based in the prairie provinces, where 28 million hectares of land account for 85% of Canada’s agricultural production with crops like canola, wheat and pulses. As people all over the world shift their diets away from meat to include more plant proteins, demand will increase.

There is no maximum amount of total funding that a project can receive, but PIC will only reimburse up to 50% of eligible costs. Costs are reimbursed after consortium members submit receipts and PIC reviews them. PIC may advance funds of up to $500,000 for each consortium member to a total of $1 million for a project to assist with initial costs. But don’t start spending money yet: only those costs incurred after the signing of a Master Project Agreement (MPA) are eligible. 

PIC co-invests in Technology Projects and Capacity Building Projects, and both types of projects have the same kinds of eligible and ineligible expenses.

Eligible Expenses

  • Labour costs for existing or new employees who are working directly on the project based on an hourly rate, or subcontractors and consultants at fair market value 

  • Capital equipment, facilities and telecommunications fees that are essential to the success of the project (except new construction or the purchase of a building or land)

  • Materials and supplies (reimbursed when the materials are consumed, not when they are purchased)

  • Costs for room or facility rentals dedicated to the project

  • Travel costs incurred exclusively for the project 

  • Intellectual property and market research costs with a direct link to project activities and technologies

  • In-kind or non-cash related expenses may be reimbursed at fair market value

Ineligible Expenses

  • Federal and provincial income taxes, federal and provincial consumption taxes, excess profit taxes, airport taxes, tourism taxes and foreign taxes

  • Fines and penalties

  • Losses on investments or bad debts

  • Depreciation of excess facilities and assets

  • Honoraria, gifts, donations, entertainment expenses and alcoholic beverages

  • Discretionary employee benefits (e.g. health, dental, RRSPs) or bonuses

  • Legal, accounting or consulting fees in connection with litigation or financial reorganization

Technology Projects

Protein Industries Canada will co-invest in projects that support one of their four themes: “create, grow, make and sell”. It will reimburse expenses for a project based on how closely it aligns to the goals of the program areas, themes and the impact it could have on Canadian industry. PIC may issue a specific call for projects to fill a gap in the market, but members can submit their own projects anytime. Organizations can become members here.

Technology Project Eligibility Requirements

One of the goals of PIC is to encourage collaboration between for-profit businesses, academic and research institutions, larger industry players and non-profit organizations. For this reason, projects must be submitted by a consortium of at least two entities and each entity must contribute to the project in a meaningful way. Some other key requirements include:  

  • At least one member must be a small or medium enterprise (SME) with 499 or fewer employees and less than $50 million in gross revenues

  • At least two members of the consortium must contribute financially to the project

  • At least two partners must be Canadian companies or multi-national corporations that do significant business in Canada

  • The project can’t simply be an extension of what the project participants already do; the project must be something additive to their current activities and wouldn’t happen at all, or at the same scale, without the member groups working together

How to Apply:

The project application process has two parts. First, review the project eligibility requirements in the PIC Technology Program Guide, then fill out the preliminary Expression of Interest (EOI) form. Consortium members should work together to complete one application form, and PIC staff are there to help you get it right. Next is the actual project proposal. Proposals are typically evaluated within 10 weeks of being received.

Capacity Building Projects

As with Technology Projects above, PIC will accept and reimburse expenses for a project based on how closely it aligns to the goals of the program areas, themes and the impact it could have on Canadian industry. Collaboration between different kinds of business entities is also encouraged for Capacity Building projects, so they must be submitted by a consortium of at least two entities.

Other Key Requirements:

    • Non-Canadian businesses can participate in a consortium, pending approval by Protein Industries Canada


    • The project must be new and impossible without the participation of the consortium members 


    • Projects that impact the whole protein sector in Canada are strongly encouraged


    • Projects in which industry dollars are invested will be scored higher


    • Projects that include Indigenous and/or other under-represented groups will be scored higher


  • SMEs aren’t required for Capacity Building projects, project that include them will be scored higher

How to Apply:

The complexity of the application process and the documents required vary depending on the project value.The details are laid out in the Capacity Building Program Guide. Project groups must complete and submit an Application Package, which consists of a Project Application Form, a Project Plan and a Financial Workbook. As for Technology Projects, it’s a two-step process: first, the application package is reviewed by PIC staff to assess eligibility. If the project meets the eligibility criteria, it is then evaluated by the Project Approval Committee (PAC).

Whether it’s a Capacity Building Project or a Technology Project, the staff at Protein Industries Canada is there to help projects succeed and will walk applicants through the process. If either of the Program Guides leave you with questions, they encourage applicants to contact them.  

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