Alberta Innovates is Alberta’s largest research and innovation agency, dedicated to driving sustainable jobs, economic growth, improved health, and environmental benefits across the province. It focuses on inclusivity and diverse representation within the research and innovation ecosystem, ensuring fair opportunities for all interested and qualified parties.
Projects funded through Alberta Innovates, like those in the Innovation Micro Voucher Program, align with the Government of Alberta’s research and innovation priorities, positively impacting Albertans. Managed by the Entrepreneurial Investments unit, the program supports businesses in commercializing technology and fueling economic growth. This unit champions innovation through coaching, community engagement, and capital investment. More about their work can be found here.
Program Overview Alberta Innovates’ Micro Voucher Program bolsters small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), fostering economic diversification and growth in Alberta. By providing non-dilutive funding and mentorship from experienced business advisors, the program helps SMEs navigate the path to commercialization and scale-up. The ultimate goals are to amplify business outcomes and nurture globally competitive SMEs, with measurable outcomes being job creation, revenue/export growth, and technological progression. This initiative is part of Alberta Innovates’ comprehensive approach to funding SMEs focusing on technology commercialization.
Applicant Eligibility The Micro Voucher Program primarily targets Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) aiming to advance a technology-based business opportunity closer to commercialization and revenue. The ideal applicants should be in the Concepting stage of development, have a Technology Readiness Level of 3-7, completed initial market and industry assessment, have a founding team and/or advisors, and have validated their first potential customers. The program is open to for-profit organizations that exist as corporate entities, are authorized to undertake the proposed project and are not prohibited from receiving Alberta Innovates funding. The applicant must be Alberta- based with a significant operational presence, appropriate Alberta ownership, and intent to benefit the Province of Alberta primarily.
Service Provider Eligibility Service providers must exist as corporate entities, be authorized to undertake the proposed project, and demonstrate no conflict of interest with the applicant. They should operate at arm’s length from the applicant and provide services and/or products at reasonable market rates. They should not be prohibited from receiving Alberta Innovates funding due to past bad debts or poor financial standing with Alberta Innovates or its subsidiaries.
Project Eligibility For a project to be eligible for funding, it must align with the objectives of the Micro Voucher Program. It should provide a current quotation for the work to be done, be eligible for only one Micro Voucher grant per innovation, be completed within a 6-month term, and adhere to any additional guidelines or criteria that Alberta Innovates may establish as time progresses. Projects can encompass various activities, such as design, engineering and prototype development, product testing and refinement, patent development, advanced market assessment, advanced business and/or marketing strategies, and other technology development activities evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
Funding The Micro Voucher Program, administered by Alberta Innovates, offers up to $10,000 in support to eligible applicants for six-month projects to advance technology commercialization. Applicants must contribute at least 25% of the total eligible project costs and maintain a significant financial commitment, even when co-funded by other agencies. All funding is disbursed after the approval of a final report and covers only reasonable costs incurred post the signing of an Investment Agreement. Refer to the Investment Agreement on the Innovation Micro Voucher webpage for detailed cost guidelines.
How to Apply Phase 1: Engagement and Intake Phase 1 involves the initiation of the application process for the Micro-Voucher Program. Here, the applicant identifies the project’s need and obtains a quote from a service provider for project completion. To ensure a smooth process, applicants are urged to engage with a Technology Development Advisor (TDA) before applying. The TDA’s role is to provide guidance, coach, and assess the applicant’s Micro Voucher readiness. Moreover, TDAs can suggest alternative Alberta Innovates funding programs and direct applicants towards external funding opportunities.
Phase 2: Application and Evaluation Phase 2 is the core of the application process. Applicants access and submit the application form via the online portal at any time. The application should clearly outline the current state of the opportunity, the applicant’s business readiness, participation of a service provider, the intended project and its benefits, and the applicant’s current financial state. Detailed financial documentation can be found on the program webpage. After submission, the application undergoes a rigorous evaluation to determine the project’s viability and alignment with Alberta’s economic goals.
Phase 3: Project Management Upon approval, Phase 3 kicks off the project management stage. The applicant executes an Investment Agreement with Alberta Innovates, officially setting the project in motion. If a TDA still needs to be engaged, a TDA is assigned to the project to monitor the progress and provide coaching as needed. Successful applicants should be proactive in all project management activities and work closely with their assigned TDA, contributing to the successful completion of the project.
Alberta Innovates uses a thorough evaluation process for the Micro Voucher Program, checking alignment with program goals and assessing parameters like technology, business opportunity, and potential return. The process involves internal staff and external experts, whose identities are kept confidential to maintain impartiality. Decisions are made solely by Alberta Innovates based on multiple business and technical factors while adhering to confidentiality and conflict-of-interest policies.
Alberta Innovates’ investment approach strongly emphasizes performance measurement. Their funding is contingent on achieving specific milestones, requiring applicants to show sufficient progress through reports. Project outcomes are reported throughout and up to five years after completion, assessing their benefits to Alberta performance metrics, applied on both project and program levels, help in this process, although they may change over time to match evolving innovation and market scenarios.
The terms and conditions outlined by Alberta Innovates set the foundation for a successful project partnership. Once an application for funding has been assessed and approved, Alberta Innovates necessitates the applicant to endorse a standard Investment Agreement. This document can be accessed on the Alberta Innovates website for reference. This agreement details all parties’ roles, responsibilities, and obligations to ensure project success.
Terms and Conditions
Importantly, Alberta Innovates will disburse funding once all parties have signed the Investment agreement. Funding will only be awarded to applicants who have satisfied all eligibility criteria. However, meeting these criteria does not guarantee access to funding, as all funding decisions are made at Alberta Innovates’ sole discretion.
Communication regarding the application will only be in writing and provided to the person named in the application form as the applicant’s authorized representative. For any questions or clarifications about the guide or program expectations, Alberta Innovates is readily available for contact.
Finally, applicants should note that Alberta Innovates may modify this guide occasionally, ensuring it remains current with any changes to the program.
Conclusion The Micro-Voucher Program is a monumental step towards enhancing Alberta’s technological landscape and economic resilience. By stimulating innovation among SMEs, the program promises to drive economic diversification and growth in Alberta, securing a prosperous future for the province. As an Alberta-based SME, this is a golden opportunity to leverage innovation for your growth and contribute to Alberta’s economic prosperity. By navigating the eligibility criteria, understanding the funding process, and adhering to the terms and conditions, you can ensure a successful application and possibly propel your enterprise to the next level of innovation.
Remember, as Henry Ford once said, “If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.” Let’s move forward with the Micro-Voucher Program and chart a success story for Alberta.