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5 Ways Grants Can Help Grow Your Business in 2024

By Diane Amato

Published January 4, 2024 • 12 Min Read

With the cost of doing business rising in a challenging economy, business owners can use all the financial help they can get. And with borrowing costs high, there’s nothing better than tapping into new funding opportunities that you don’t have to pay back. If you’re looking to grow your business, learn how government funding can help you achieve your goals.

When companies are looking to move beyond “business as usual” and explore growth opportunities, one of the first steps is to determine how growth will be generated. Will it be achieved by increasing an existing customer base or by boosting the engagement or usage of existing customers? Will growth come from introducing new products and/or services or entering new markets with the current offering?

However you’re planning to grow, expansion of any kind takes investment, which is often a barrier for businesses with limited cash flow. Fortunately, government grants and incentives can provide much-needed funding for businesses with growth plans, particularly if they align with Canada’s economic priorities. In the recently published 2023 Fall Economic Statement, the Federal government has reinforced its commitment to building a strong economy that works for everyone.

As GrantMatch Co-Founder and Managing Partner, Mike Janke explains, “Government grants and incentives can accelerate your business growth and help de-risk your financial investment. Grants go straight to your bottom line, unlike new sales, of which you only get to keep your profit margin. It is worth it for small businesses to spend the time researching and applying for grants and incentives.”   

GrantMatch is Canada’s leading grants and incentives management firm, offering a range of software and service-based solutions to assist Canadian businesses maximize funding attained from government incentive programs. Janke adds that these programs provide opportunity for businesses to expand and grow through capital investments in areas such as job creation, training, innovation, technology and ecological efficiency.

“One way to improve your chances of securing government funding is to create a grant strategy that aligns with the most prominent funding program themes for the year ahead. This way, you can plan investments that are most likely to receive grant funding support,” says Janke.

Here are five ways government grants and incentives can help you grow your business in 2024.

1. Grants for Hiring and Training

Whether you need to grow your workforce to boost production or upskill existing talent to drive innovation, a commitment to create new jobs and develop current employees can position your business for grant and incentive programming. This is because both federal and provincial governments have a hearty commitment to job creation, particularly as it relates to the country’s transition to a green economy, our competitiveness on the world stage and the economic vitality of local communities.

Businesses can tap into tomorrow’s workforce with the help of the Government of Canada’s Student Work Placement Program (SWPP) that provides employers with wage subsidies up to $7,000 to hire post-secondary students for paid work experiences.

Visit Magnet to find talent and explore the SWPP program.

Hiring and training to support Canada’s pursuit of a net-zero economy is a key federal priority – in the November 3, 2022, Federal Fall Economic Update, $250 million was earmarked for green skills training over five years, including:

Sustainable Jobs Training Center: This new initiative is designed to assist in the training of up to 15,000 workers in low-carbon jobs such as the sustainable battery industry.

Apprenticeship Job Creation Tax Credit: This program provides non-refundable tax credits in hopes of encouraging training and long-term apprenticeships in Red Seal trades, offering up to 10% of the eligible salary.

There are also several open funding programs from Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC), which support jobs, training, and social development across a range of industries. Further, provincial and territorial governments offer funding opportunities for job creation and upskilling to address regional priorities.

Grant in action:

Walpole Island Algonac Ferry Ltd. received $82,000 from the Canada-Ontario Job Grant for a Ferry Captain Training program to train up to 12 participants. Training is provided through Georgian College’s Marine Studies Program and will take place at their Owen Sound campus and onsite at the Walpole Island Ferry facility in southwestern Ontario. Upon completion of the course, trainees will receive an industry-recognized certificate of Master Limited over 60 Tonnes and will have the opportunity to work as part of Walpole Island Ferry’s expanded ferry service between Canada and the U.S. on the St. Clair River. Learn more

2. Grants for Technical and Digital Innovation

In order to compete and grow in today’s market, businesses of all types and sizes need to add technology to their business or apply digital innovation to be competitive. Whether it’s digital tools and technology, scientific research and development, new product design, improved industrial processes or supply chain enhancements, technology and digital innovation are essential levers.

Grants and incentive programs designed to boost regional and national economies — and make them more competitive — can help businesses tap into the technologies that can help them thrive. For instance:

The Canada Digital Adoption Program (CDAP) offers grants to help owners add technology to get online, reach more customers, operate more efficiently and propel their businesses forward.  Business owners can contact helloDarwin to receive up to $15,000 in grants to develop their Digital Adoption Plan.  Once approved, they are automatically eligible to contact Magnet to receive up to $7,300 for each funded work placement to help implement their technology plan.

The National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC-IRAP) – The primary role of NRC-IRAP is to help small and medium-sized Canadian businesses with mentorship and funding so they can grow and develop innovative technologies. The program offers grants to fund R&D project costs from $50,000 to $500,000. Learn more about IRAP

What’s more, the 2022 Federal budget includes the development of the $15 Billion Canada Growth Fund – a fund designed to make it easier for private companies to spend on research and technology.

Grant in action:

In 2021, the National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC IRAP) provided advisory services and funding to Vancouver-based Axine Water Technologies to help the company develop high-efficiency, advanced industrial wastewater treatment systems.

These systems can treat highly toxic, concentrated pharmaceutical wastewaters on site instead of being transported to remote specific locations for treatment. The technology not only helps solve environmental pollution in Canada, but the company sees export opportunities for a worldwide market.

3. Grants for Infrastructure, Equipment & Facilities

If the growth of your business relies on new or improved manufacturing infrastructure, equipment and facilities, there are grant and incentive programs dedicated to enabling necessary construction and expansion. Because these projects can be capital-intensive, it’s important to note that it is recommended to apply for the grant well ahead of starting the project as there are differing terms and conditions for each grant.

“The Canada Growth Fund, originally announced in the 2022 Federal Budget, is a $15 billion-dollar federal program. Launched in early 2023, the fund is designed to attract and encourage business investments by providing funding to projects that reduce carbon emissions, accelerate the deployment of key technologies such as hydrogen, create new jobs, or capitalize on Canada’s abundance of natural resources and strengthen critical supply chains.” – Mike Janke, Co-Founder and Managing Partner at GrantMatch.

Grant in action:

British Columbia’s ReFeed is on a mission to develop programs, best practices and new products to help fix our broken food system. With the help of funding secured through the BC Accelerating Manufacturing Scale-Up Grant Program, ReFeed was able to pilot their Circular Nutrition™ technology in a new 3,000 square foot custom facility.

The investment resulted in job creation, a scale-up of technology, and the ability to expand into North American and global Cleantech markets. Learn more

4. Grants for Environmental & Green Investments

There are several grant and funding opportunities offered by all levels of government that support projects aimed at protecting or conserving the environment. Businesses making investments in processes, technologies or equipment that reduce their carbon footprint may be eligible for grant funding that makes such projects more attractive or feasible.

Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) Funding Programs: The government of Canada offers funding through a variety of grants and contributions programs. A complete listing of programs can be found here.

Grant in action

With the help of GrantMatch, Waterloo Brewing secured $414,830 in funding through the CME Smart Green Program for a new canning line pasteurizer that significantly reduced natural gas consumption.

The brewery was also successful in securing funding through the Climate Action Incentive Fund to support an investment in a new compressed air system. Learn more

5. Grants for New Businesses and Start-ups

Getting access to funding is one of the biggest challenges new businesses face, and admittedly most of the grants and funding opportunities out there apply to companies that have been up and running for at least a year. But there are grants and other sources of funding that start-ups can qualify for, helping entrepreneurs launch their ideas.

Funding for start-ups:

The National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC-IRAP) – The previously mentioned NRC-IRAP program is a diverse program and includes providing mentorship and funding to start-ups so they can grow and develop innovative technologies. The program offers grants to fund R&D project costs from $50,000 to $500,000. Learn more about IRAP

The Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC) funds and provides continued mentorship to Cleantech start-ups that already have a proof-of-concept (POC) but haven’t yet commercialized their product or service. They offer an equity-free grant of up to 40% of eligible project costs. Find out more

The Scientific Research and Experimental Development (SR&ED) tax incentive program encourages businesses, including start-ups, to invest in R&D. It’s the largest tax incentive federal program in Canada, offering tax credits in three forms: a tax deduction, a tax credit or a cash refund. Companies can receive up to 35% of qualifying R&D costs as a tax credit and reduce their future corporate taxes. Learn more

Funding for young and underserved entrepreneurs

For new and aspiring business owners who have historically faced additional obstacles in obtaining funding and access to networks, there are new and evolving funding sources designed to enable specific segments of the population.

Futurpreneur: A national, non-profit organization that provides financing, mentoring and support tools to aspiring business owners aged 18-39. Further, their internationally recognized mentoring program matches young entrepreneurs with a business expert from a network of more than 2,400 volunteer mentors.

Women Entrepreneur Program: The Women Entrepreneur Program (WEP) by Farm Credit Canada provides loans in hopes to empower women in agriculture, agribusiness, and the food industry. Loans can be used to start up and/or expand a business, as well as give access to opportunities that allow women to develop the relevant business skills and networks needed to thrive within these industries.

Black Entrepreneurship Program: The Black Entrepreneurship Program (BEP) is a partnership between the Government of Canada, Black-led business organizations, and financial institutions. With an investment of up to $265 million over four years and providing loans up to $250,000 it is designed to help Black Canadian business owners and entrepreneurs grow their businesses.

Small Business Funding for Veterans: Administered by Greenbox Capital, the Small Business Funding for Veterans program offers loans between $3,000 and $500,000 for veteran-owned small businesses and startups. Funding may be used for growth initiatives, marketing, equipment and more, and will support businesses in a wide variety of industries.

How to get started applying for grants

Searching and applying for government grants and external funding can feel like a daunting task. Take these four steps to get started:

1. It all starts with your plan for growth – take some time to review and update your business plan

2. There is help out there! GrantMatch is an expert in navigating the grant process and can help boost your chances of successfully tapping into the government funding that is available. RBC Business clients have exclusive access to special pricing and the GrantMatch Funding and Assessment Tool (FAST).

3. Start with applying for non-competitive grants and funding opportunities, which are available if you meet the criteria and are eligible for funding.

4. Once you’ve chosen a grant to apply for, do your research on its criteria and contact the program representative so that you include the appropriate information in your submission.

More tips: Looking at Government Grants for your Business? Read These Tips Before You Apply

Janke adds these closing thoughts for business owners: “One of the most important planning exercises that we practice with our clients is to pause before making a significant capital investment to consider which active grant programs might be available to help cover a portion of project costs. This is an important practice to adopt as many grant funding programs require approval before eligible costs can be incurred. If you have control over the timing of your investments, in some cases it may pay off to delay or accelerate your timelines to align with funding program intake schedules.”

Bottom Line

While grants and incentives can be game-changing funding sources for your business, the government grant landscape is both complex and dynamic and you may need help in determining grants that apply to your business. Learn more about GrantMatch and other Beyond Banking solutions, offers, and resources available to RBC business clients.

This article is intended as general information only and is not to be relied upon as constituting legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. Information presented is believed to be factual and up-to-date but we do not guarantee its accuracy and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the authors as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by Royal Bank of Canada or any of its affiliates.

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