Regional innovation ecosystems

Important note:

The program currently has limited budget availability due to a high demand. Please contact a FedNor officer to discuss your project prior to submitting an application under the program.

Table of Contents

Scope & Objectives

The Regional innovation ecosystems (RIE) Stream aims to create, grow and develop strong and inclusive regional ecosystems that support business growth and innovation, as well as the entrepreneurial environment necessary to foster more innovative regional economies and increase the competitiveness of small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

Through this program, FedNor seeks to:

  • Grow and sustain strategic clusters and consortia to leverage regional strengths and support businesses to scale up and commercialize innovative products, technologies and services.
  • Enhance the development and reach of business accelerators and incubators, and other organizations, which support entrepreneurs, start-ups and innovative companies with high-growth potential.
  • Support projects led by innovation-oriented organizations to increase and promote business productivity and global competitiveness, and investment and talent attraction.

FedNor will make targeted investments in not-for-profit organizations that provide support to businesses at each stage of development in areas where Northern Ontario has the potential to have a leadership position and opportunities for growth. Investments made through FedNor's Regional innovation ecosystems Stream will further enhance the capacity of ecosystems to support underrepresented groups, including women, Indigenous (First Nation/Métis/Inuit) peoples and young entrepreneurs, promoting their entrepreneurial talent.

Expected Results

Projects supported through FedNor's programs work towards achieving one or more of the following departmental results:

  • Businesses in Northern Ontario invest in the development and commercialization of innovative technologies, products, services and processes.
  • Businesses in Northern Ontario are innovative and growing.
  • Communities in Northern Ontario are economically diversified.


I. Eligible Applicants

  • Not-for-profit organizations (e.g., sectoral associations, universities, colleges, and angel networks);
  • Business Accelerators and Incubators (BAIs);
  • A group of eligible recipients (e.g., alliance) that include not-for-profit organizations, small- and medium-sized enterprises ( SMEs ), post-secondary educational institutions, social enterprises; or a group or an alliance such as an industry association or consortium;
  • A municipality and all other municipal-type organizations;
  • An Indigenous organization such as Indigenous-led not-for-profits and organizations that include but are not limited to First Nations as represented by their Chief and Council, Tribal Councils, Indigenous Representative Organizations, Métis and Inuit organizations, and Settlements as well as Indigenous (First Nation/Métis/Inuit) Settlement owned businesses;
  • A crown corporation provided that the financial assistance is not or will not be used to fund the corporation's capital or ongoing operational requirements;
  • An Ontario government department, crown corporation or organization or any other entity created by the provincial government or a provincial department.

To be considered eligible, project benefits must accrue to Northern Ontario.

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

To be considered eligible for funding, applicants must demonstrate:

  • Evidence of project funding.
  • Managerial, technical, operational and financial capacity to achieve the project's stated objectives in a timely manner.
  • Market/industry demand (e.g., how the project addresses a significant gap in the market; global opportunity to be seized within Canada; and evidence that Northern Ontario is uniquely positioned to capture market share).
  • A viable project plan with achievable outcomes, supported by verifiable cost estimates.

Applicants may also be required to demonstrate how their project will be self-sustaining upon the completion of the project. For project proposals that will result in the creation of a new ongoing program/service, applicants may be required to demonstrate the financial sustainability of the new program/service beyond the project completion date (i.e., sustainable business model and/or a plan for generating revenue in order to grow or maintain service levels.

II. Eligible Activities

FedNor is targeting investments structured around the following activities:

Growing Clusters and Consortia

Cluster and consortia projects bring together multiple stakeholders, such as businesses, industry associations, Indigenous economic development corporations, post-secondary and research institutions, and all levels of government. These projects will normally have strong industry participation, support the translation of leading-edge innovation into high-growth entrepreneurship, and focus on areas where Northern Ontario has an innovation advantage and/or there are global opportunities.

Examples of eligible project activities could include:

  • Business and market development and/or expansion of programs and services.
  • Commercialization services, networking and mentoring opportunities.
  • Financing programs and support.
  • Business innovation support services for women, Indigenous (First Nation/Métis/Inuit) peoples and young entrepreneurs.
  • Improving the availability of risk capital to address a need in the region.
  • Innovative models to support the first sale of new products and services.
  • Training needed to support the adoption or adaptation of innovative technologies, processes and practices.
  • Enhancing investment attraction, export readiness and market diversification.
  • Facilitating supply chain development.

III. Eligible Costs

Eligible costs include all costs incurred by the eligible recipient which, in FedNor's estimation, are reasonable and necessary for carrying out the project, including:

  • Project-specific cost of labour (e.g., wages and benefits) and of material used;
  • Capital costs: purchase of machinery, equipment and infrastructure;
  • Operating costs that are incremental, measurable and directly related to the project;
  • Consultancy fees (e.g. professional, advisory and technical services);
  • Advisory expenses (e.g., planning, business information, counselling advisory services; coaching, mentoring or networking events; workshops or conference fees);
  • Costs related to intellectual property;
  • Preproduction (e.g., technological development and commercial demonstrations);
  • Commercialization costs;
  • Costs related to expanding or maintaining markets;
  • Subcontracting costs;
  • Production and distribution of promotional material and management tools;
  • Anticipated cost of maintaining the useful life of an asset for a reasonable period;
  • Production of management tools; and,
  • Costs related to specialized services such as testing services, research and development services, technical or innovation services, sector development strategies in all markets and business networking.

IV. Ineligible and/or Unsupported Costs

Any costs deemed not reasonable and/or not directly related to the eligible project activities are ineligible, including:

  • Activities in support of regular maintenance and/or ongoing operation costs;
  • Costs typically supported by federal/provincial transfer payments;
  • Cost incurred prior to the eligibility date as defined in the contribution agreement;
  • Any cost that is ineligible or unsupported under the contribution agreement;
  • Acquisition of land and buildings;
  • Costs that result in direct benefits to a single or small number of private firms, unless specifically associated with an approved activity related to the delivery of service or program under the proposed project; and,
  • The purchase of any assets for more than the fair market value of the said asset.


FedNor will work to ensure project applications align with the Government of Canada's Prosperity and Growth Strategy for Northern Ontario (PGSNO) Preference will be given to projects that respond to issues and opportunities identified in the PGSNO . These may include priority sectors and strategic clusters, or projects that reinforce Northern Ontario's economic and innovation strengths in areas of comparative advantages at the regional, national or global level.

Projects that support the government's commitment to inclusive growth (i.e., women and Indigenous (First Nation/Métis/Inuit) peoples) and Official Language Minority Communities may be given priority.


Assistance available includes repayable and non-repayable contributions. Contributions will normally be repayable where proposed projects generate profits for the eligible applicant.

The amount of the awarded contribution will be based on the minimum amount required for the project to proceed, the extent to which other sources of available funding have been leveraged, and the applicant's ability to repay the contribution, if applicable.

Applicants are normally eligible to receive up to 75 percent of eligible and supported costs. On an exceptional basis, FedNor may consider projects eligible for up to 100 percent of eligible and supported project costs.  Where contributions are awarded to commercial projects, recipients must assume a portion of a project's eligible costs.

For projects involving redistribution of funding to SMEs , the ultimate recipients ( SMEs ) must provide minimum 50 percent cash contribution. The maximum disbursement of a contribution that provides funding to SMEs as their ultimate recipient is capped at a maximum of $25,000 per SME under a FedNor project with a not-for-profit organization.

Government stacking up to 100% is allowed for the Regional innovation ecosystems Stream. All potential recipients of assistance under this program must disclose all sources of confirmed and potential government assistance before the start and at the end of the project.

Financial assistance from government programs may have tax implications for an organization. It is recommended that applicants obtain advice from a qualified tax professional.

Project funding is subject to parliamentary approval of funds and to the maintenance of current and forecasted program-related budgetary levels.

Disbursement of Funding

If a project receives approval, a contribution agreement will be executed with FedNor. Funding will be based on the percentage of funding approved for eligible costs incurred.

FedNor will allow for advance payments under this program based on the recipient's cash flow requirements.

Progress payments will be made on the basis of documented claims for reasonable eligible costs incurred or on the basis of the achievement of pre-determined performance objectives (for example, project milestone payments) and on the costing formula to be described in the contribution agreement.

To receive funding, recipients must submit claims forms, on templates provided by FedNor, that summarize eligible costs incurred and paid within a defined period. Generally, the duration of these periods will be quarterly.


The specific terms of repayment, if applicable, including date of commencement and length of repayment term, will be determined on a case-by-case basis during the development of the contribution agreement. Repayment will normally begin no later than one year following the completion of the project.

Application Process

Applications are accepted on an ongoing basis with no submission deadlines. FedNor has a Two-phase application process and a Phase One Application for Funding that is used across all programs.

Refer to the Application Guide for instructions on how to complete FedNor's Phase One Application for Funding. Applicants are encouraged to review the Application Guide in conjunction with these programming guidelines.

Applicants are strongly encouraged to contact a FedNor Program Officer prior to submitting an application.

Multiple and concurrent project submissions from the same applicant are discouraged and may not be considered by FedNor; applicants are encouraged to prioritize project submissions.

FedNor reserves the right to initiate calls for proposals as deemed necessary to encourage applications in priority areas or sectors. FedNor also reserves the right to change the application process at its sole discretion.

Assessment Process

FedNor will review Phase One applications as they are received.

All applications will be screened initially for completeness.

Complete applications are those that include all prescribed documentation containing all information needed for FedNor to complete the review. Information should be accurate, verifiable, relevant and consistent.

Applicants that meet the program eligibility criteria will be notified and asked to submit a Phase Two application.

Phase Two applications will undergo a due diligence process where they are assessed against a number of factors. Assessment criteria include, but are not limited to:

  • Project's contribution to achieving the objectives and expected outcomes of the Regional innovation ecosystems Stream and government priorities.
  • Demonstrated capacity of the applicant to successfully implement the project and achieve the stated objectives. Factors to be assessed include managerial capacity, technical capacity, operational capacity and financial capacity.
  • Assessment of need for the project, and how the project fills a significant gap in the ecosystem in priority sectors or clusters.
  • Risks (financial, technical) and mitigation strategies.
  • Economic benefits of the project.
  • Innovation benefits of the project.
  • Demonstrated need for FedNor's investment and its incremental impact on project in terms of scope, location and timing.
  • Support for inclusive growth priorities (e.g., women-owned or Indigenous (First Nation/Métis/Inuit)-owned organizations).


All proprietary data, commercially sensitive information and potentially valuable results or ideas will be protected from unauthorized, inadvertent or untimely disclosure. This information will be treated in accordance with the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act.

These laws govern, protect and limit the collection, use and disclosure of personal and confidential information by federal government departments and agencies. Beyond the parties already mentioned above, confidential commercial information will not be shared without the applicant's consent.

Reporting Requirements

Recipients may be required to submit to FedNor periodic project reports and annual financial statements. Project reports will provide details on results and completion of deliverables, including achievement of performance indicators and project benefits identified in the contribution agreement.

Visibility and Communications Requirements

Recipients must agree to participate in a public announcement and other promotional activities linked to the Contribution, as outlined in the Communications requirements section of FedNor's website.

Service Standards

FedNor is committed to providing quality service to all applicants and funding recipients in the official language of their choice.

Our goal is to:

  • acknowledge receipt of an application within (3) working days (FedNor has, on average, met this service standard in the 2021/22 fiscal year 100% of the time); and,
  • provide a decision on applications within eighty (80) working days of receipt of a fully completed application (FedNor has, on average, met this service standard in the 2021/22 fiscal year 80% of the time)Footnote 1.
  • render a payment decision on claim submissions within thirty-five (35) working days (FedNor has, on average, met this service standard in the 2021/22 fiscal year 86% of the time).


FedNor reserves the right to modify these guidelines at any time without notice and may waive certain requirements on an exceptional basis.

Where applicable, FedNor requires that:

  • Applicants address the requirements of the Impact Assessment Act, 2019, and reflect the spirit and intent of the Official Languages Act;
  • Capital projects respect Canada's obligation to consult and, where appropriate, accommodate Indigenous (First Nation/Métis/Inuit) communities;
  • Applicants use a fair, competitive and transparent procurement process to ensure the best value for money when supplies, equipment and services are purchased or personnel hired; and
  • An appropriate authority or regulatory body endorses the project.

Contact Us

Applicants are strongly encouraged to contact FedNor to discuss their project with a Program Officer, who will also explore other government programs that may be applicable, or begin your application process.

For more information on FedNor's programs, visit Our Programs, or call 1-877-333-6673. TTY (for hearing-impaired): 1-866-694-8389.