Regional Innovation Ecosystems (RIE) in the Prairie provinces

Are you a not-for-profit providing support or services to innovative businesses? Is building an inclusive and stronger innovation ecosystem at the heart of your organization? Does your organization need more resources to implement innovations that would accelerate sector growth?

The Regional Innovation Ecosystems (RIE) program creates, grows and nurtures inclusive regional ecosystems that support:

  • what business needs to innovate from start to finish
  • an environment where companies can innovate, grow and compete

On this page

RIE program objectives

RIE advances PrairieCan’s strategic priorities and is part of the national Regional Economic Growth through Innovation program. Through RIE, we make targeted investments in not-for-profit organizations that support businesses in priority sectors to innovate, grow and compete globally. We also foster inclusive growth by helping under-represented groups more fully participate in the innovation economy.

Program objectives consist of the following four ways to help Prairies business scale up, become more productive, compete globally and attract both investment and talent:

  • leveraging regional ecosystem strengths
  • helping business accelerators, incubators and similar organizations develop and increase their reach
  • supporting projects led by innovation-oriented organizations
  • helping ecosystems to support underrepresented groups, including women, Indigenous peoples and young entrepreneurs

Eligible activities

Activities should help a regional innovation ecosystem to respond to a specific challenge, opportunity or market need or demand. These should relate to business scale-up and productivity, with emphasis on:

  • Technology commercialization (technology readiness levels 7-9), which includes:
    • enhancing businesses innovation efforts
    • setting up, expanding or modernizing a facility to provide specialized services for businesses, including platforms, innovation assets, tools and testbeds
    • focusing on late stage product development, such as technology showcasing and demonstration
  • Business scale-up, which includes:
    • developing entrepreneurship and helping businesses develop markets, export and attract investment
    • analysing opportunities, such as identifying changes in global demand or prime contractors’ requirements for a sector
  • Productivity improvement, which includes:
    • transferring technology, including validating needs, training and implementing a new technology
    • adopting technology for new industrial applications and/or entry into new markets
  • Ecosystem capacity building, which includes:
    • developing strategic business alliances within a sector or cluster
    • research and analysis to identify barriers to scaling up and boosting productivity within the sector or cluster
    • developing a strategy to address these barriers
  • Business acceleration and incubation, which includes:
    • helping entrepreneurs create and grow their start-up company, with services such advice as:
      • how to create a business plan
      • how to create a marketing strategy
      • how to hire employees
      • other aspects of setting up a business
    • support entrepreneurs with services such as:
      • office space
      • expert mentors
      • specialized equipment

Additionally, RIE applications must support one of the following 2 priority areas:

  • growth and transformation, within one of the following priority sectors:
    • clean technology
    • clean resources
    • life sciences (including precision healthcare)
    • value-added agriculture
    • advanced manufacturing
    • digital technology
  • inclusiveness - supporting under-represented groups such as Indigenous peoples, women, youth and other under-represented groups.

Eligible applicants

RIE is open to not-for-profit organizations that support businesses, innovators and entrepreneurs, for start-up, growth, productivity, technology commercialization, technology adoption, export and investment attraction, including:

  • post-secondary educational institutions
  • business accelerator and incubators
  • angel networks
  • Indigenous (First Nations, Inuit, Métis) organizations, including Indigenous-led not-for profit organizations and Indigenous-owned businesses
  • social enterprises
  • a group of eligible recipients such as an industry association or consortium
  • a municipality and other levels of government

All eligible applicants must be legal entities capable of entering into legally binding agreements.

Expected outcomes

The RIE program is expected to result in an enhanced and strengthened economy across the Prairies. On a project-by-project basis, examples of outcomes include (but are not limited to):

  • number of highly-qualified personnel (HQP) jobs created, including science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) jobs
  • number of non-HQP jobs created
  • revenue growth ($)
  • export sales growth ($)
  • number of small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) assisted
  • business sales growth resulting from commercialization or adoption ($) – where applicable
  • value of expenditures in research and development ($)
  • number of technologies to market
  • incremental private sector investment attracted ($)

Funding and Reporting

If we select your project for RIE funding, PrairiesCan will normally provide non-repayable funding in periodic reimbursements, based on submitted claims. These reimbursements will be released to you for the approved portion of eligible projects costs that have been incurred and paid.

Note that any funding of a commercial project with a not-for-profit organization or of any project with a for-profit organization typically will be repayable. Repayable contributions are normally repaid (at 0% interest) over 5 years in monthly installments beginning 1 year after the project end date.

You will need to plan project cash flows based on the timing of the claims and the period to process the reimbursement. We provide an orientation to this process for successful applicants.

You are expected to have secured all non-PrairiesCan requested project financing (typically, at least 50%) before applying.

Projects may vary in duration, typically ranging from a few months to 3 years. All successful applicants will sign a standard Contribution Agreement with PrairiesCan. The Agreement outlines the obligations of the funding recipient, including the submission of claims information and periodic progress reports (minimum 2 per year).

Eligible costs

All proposed costs should be incremental, meaning that they are beyond the normal operations of an organization, and essential to the project. Costs that may be eligible for reimbursement include, but might not be limited to:

  • capital costs (equipment, machinery)
  • labour (wages, benefits)
  • operating costs that are directly related to the project, such as management fees or working capital
  • consultancy fees (such as professional, advisory and technical services)
  • costs related to intellectual property
  • preproduction (such as technological development and commercial demonstrations)
  • subcontracting costs
  • production and distribution of promotional material and management tools
  • costs related to specialized services such as testing, research and development, technical or innovation, sector development strategies in all markets and business networking

Ineligible costs

Costs that are deemed unreasonable, not incremental and/or not directly related to project activities are ineligible for reimbursement. These include, but may not be limited to:

  • refinancing of an existing debt
  • purchase of any assets for more than the fair market value of the said asset
  • costs of amortization
  • land acquisition and goodwill

Costs incurred prior to the proposed project funding start date will not be eligible.

The application process

The RIE program uses a 2-stage continuous intake approach to which applicants may apply at any time:

  1. Expression of interest (EOI): This abbreviated on-line application form lets you describe the proposed project purpose, rationale, eligibility, activities and budget. We use it to determine if your project should advance to a full application.
  2. Full application: If your project advances to the second stage, we invite you to provide more details about their project through our online portal. This may include financial statements, confirmation of other sources of funding and other project information.

If you have a project idea, or have any questions about the application process, we encourage you to contact us prior to submitting an EOI.

Please refer to the EOI help guide for instructions on how to complete the expression of interest form, and, if your project advances to the second stage, refer to the applicant guide for instructions on how to complete the full application form on our online portal.

Application review

There is no deadline to submit an EOI. If invited to complete a full application, a PrairiesCan officer will be available to work with you and respond to any questions you may have.

Submitted applications undergo a due diligence process where we further assess them against the following criteria:

  • alignment to program objectives
  • strong market/industry demand (such as the project addresses a significant gap in the market or there is a demonstrated industry demand for the project)
  • measurable economic benefits for the Prairie provinces
  • effective governance measures and management team in place to carry out the project
  • strong rationale for the project
  • financial statements that demonstrate the organization is financially self-sustaining
  • leveraged funding from provincial governments, the private sector, and other non-government sources (typically 50% or more)
  • non-PrairiesCan funding is confirmed with written proof.*

*Written proof, confirmed or conditional upon PrairiesCan’s funding, will be considered acceptable confirmation of non-PrairiesCan funding. Examples of written proof include current bank statements detailing existing cash balances or the unused portion of lines of credit. If third parties are included in project funding, letters of intent or funding agreements from third parties, may be acceptable.

Only submissions demonstrating the highest merit and fit with RIE objectives will be considered for funding. Many good projects will not receive support under RIE.

Within 30 days of the EOI submission, PrairiesCan will invite selected organizations to submit a full application for funding consideration. If you have not been contacted, your project will not be considered further.

However, should you have any questions, please feel free to contact us at any of our offices by email, telephone, fax or mail (contact information below).

PrairiesCan’s service standard is to provide a funding decision to a client within 90 business days (90% of the time) of receiving a complete funding proposal.

Contact Us

For additional RIE information, contact us directly at one of our local offices or by calling 1-888-338-9378.

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