On Monday April 19th, the first Federal budget in over two years was delivered. Within the 720+ pages and $354B in spending to help steer the Canadian economy out of this unprecedented pandemic, there were some points worth highlighting as they directly play a role in supporting Canadian SMEs and startups through a variety of initiatives.
Skills-training was consistently highlighted throughout the 2021 Budget, including over $960M over a three-year period for Employment and Social Development Canada to work with employers to design and deliver relevant training for specific sectors. This money would help connect over 90,000 Canadians with training for jobs in sectors that are experiencing significant skilled worker shortages.
Additionally, $700M+ over five years was committed to MITACS to create more than 85,000 work-integrated co-op placements nationwide.
Ottawa also plans to earmark over $160M over 10 years as part of a Pan Canadian AI (artificial intelligence) Strategy through the Canadian Institute, with money aimed at retaining and attracting top academic talent across Canada.
The budget included announcements of significant funding in the innovation sector, some of the highlights being:
- $7.2B over seven years to the Strategic Innovation Fund (SIF)
- $553M to establish a new Regional Development Agency for BC, to help support companies headquartered on the West Coast
- $500M over 5 years and $100M ongoing for the NRC’s Industrial Research Assistance Program (IRAP)
- $450M to a renewed Venture Capital Catalyst Initiative (VCCI)
- $400M over 6 years for a Genomics Plan
- $360M over 7 years for a National Quantum Strategy
- $146M to strengthen the Women Entrepreneurship Development Fund
- $60M over 2 years to strengthen the Federal Superclusters Initiative
- $165M to support Canadian Intellectual Property
- $90M support for Incubator knowledge capacity and accelerators
- $75M for support through IRAP to access expertise services
A significant focus on the green economy was evident throughout the 2021 Budget, with Ottawa committing over $17B on “green recovery” initiatives. This includes $1B to help draw private sector investments in large-scale clean tech projects, with a specific emphasis on supporting Canadian scale-ups with transformative clean technology.
Additionally, other sectorial initiatives were announced such as a National Quantum Strategy, Pan Canadian Artificial Intelligence Strategy, Pan-Canadian Genomics Strategy, along with funding for cybersecurity, bio-manufacturing and life sciences, and an array of programs and incentives for the Clean Tech sector.
While we are all most certainly living in unprecedented times, it is encouraging that the Federal government has made commitments to bolster existing initiatives and introduce new programs to further strengthen the Canadian SME and startup ecosystem.
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