$100 million earmarked for Forest Products Sector

November 1, 2018

I am approached every so often by people who are looking for advice and seeking opportunities to apply for grants and incentives that they may access in order to help them with their business operations.  There are many different funding opportunities available, some federal, others provincial, and recently I have also become aware of some municipal grants offered to local businesses.  When most people think of applying for grants it is usually specific to a cause.  Equipment purchases, energy efficiency rebates, job creation stimulus etc.  What many overlook however are some of the monies that are available to those who innovate and drive change within an industry.

I began to think about this when the following excerpt came through to me in an e mail about the government’s fall economic statement:  

To accelerate support for business innovation in Canada, the Government is proposing to provide a further $800 million over five years to the Strategic Innovation Fund, which will continue to be available to support innovative investments across the country and in all economic sectors. Of this amount, $100 million will focus on providing support to the forest sector. Nearly 210,000 workers across Canada directly rely on the forest sector to provide quality employment and long-term prosperity. This funding will help support the ongoing transformation of the sector, through the commercialization of innovative processes and products from Canada’s sustainable and significant forest resources. Of this new funding for the Strategic Innovation Fund, $250 million is being made available in light of revenues collected through Canadian countermeasures (surtaxes) in response to unjustified U.S. tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum products

What caught my eye was the $100 million dollars that was earmarked for the forest (products) sector (of which we are related).  This $100 million is being made available to those who are driving change and improvement through innovation.

You may ask, “how does this affect me, I am not an innovator”.  I asked the same question years back when looking for funding to help offset the costs of developing and bringing to market some new equipment.  As it turns out, innovation comes in many shapes and sizes.  Anything that you might do that changes or alters a process, makes a process or piece of equipment more efficient or productive, or essentially is a new spin on an industry standard may be considered as innovative.  When investigating opportunities to access funding to offset the costs associated with Research and Development for our new product, we came across the Scientific Research and Experimental Development (SR&ED) program, and were successful in our pursuit of funding through that program.  This success led us to look to other potential opportunities, and we teamed up with a consulting firm who specialized in grant applications.  This was a very interesting process, and we were made to step back, and look hard at everything we did in our facility.  We looked at modifications that we made to equipment, software that we worked to develop to aid in tallying production counts and assessing piece rates for employees amongst other things.  As we progressed in the assessment, we realized that we were more “innovative” than we thought.  Working with the consultants and relying on their expertise, we identified a few key areas where we had accomplished something that was considered as worthy of pursuing (that we were able to support), and a case was made for each.  Some of the details are a little cloudy as this was some time ago, but as I recall, the consultants created a report and used it to apply for innovation grants.  Once again, we were successful in a couple of the projects and were able to secure some funds (of which the consultants did take a cut).

I will make mention here that this is not an easy task.  It requires not only an investment of time and energy, but also that you have good, detailed notes and records that support monetary investments, investments in time and labour, and details of the successes and failings that you may have had along the way.  The more detailed your notes and proofs, the easier it is for the case to be made that you have been pursuing and developing new and innovative ideas and solutions that could benefit the industry.  To be successful, you need to be transparent and you must be mindful that you cannot be secretive of your successes, nor unwilling to expose your failures along the way.  They are both part of the process.

Seeking grants in this arena is maybe not somewhere that a lot of us in the wood packaging industry would think of looking.  However, if there is one thing that I have learned about a lot of our members is that they are creative and resourceful.  Constant challenges in a tough environment sometimes breed interesting solutions, inventions, and innovations.  I would suggest that you take a look at your operation.  Think about ways that you have made improvements, or adjustments.  Has there been anything that you have created yourself to fill a void that other equipment could not fill??  If you can come up with something, then perhaps you might find yourself in a position to investigate the potential to apply for a slice of that $100 million pie.

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