Irap funding has returned almost to Economic Action Plan levels – and the rise has been especially strong in New Brunswick.
The National Research Council’s Industrial Assistant Program, known as Irap, is a cornerstone program of startup communities across the country, and certainly in Atlantic Canada. Data from the NRC show that Irap funding in Atlantic Canada rose 49 percent to $20.6 million in the year ended March 31, 2013 (The most recent data available). The growth was strongest in New Brunswick, where Irap funding rose 80 percent to $8.3 million. New Brunswick accounted for 40 percent of the total Irap funding in Atlantic Canada.
As part of its Keynesian response to the recession of 2008, the government greatly increased Irap funding for startups. That additional funding ran out two years ago. Then the government decided to ramp up funding again, this time as part of a sustained effort to increase innovative industries across Canada.
When Entrevestor asked Atlantic Canadian startups in its survey what government programs they had tapped in the past two years, 66 said they had tapped Irap, more than any other program. The second most frequently mentioned was the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency’s Business Development Program, cited by 49 companies.
One facet of Irap that is under-appreciated is its advisory service, which actually helps more entrepreneurs than its financing and which is growing strongly. The number of advisory clients in Atlantic Canada has more than doubled in the past two years to a record 606 companies. Though the number of clients receiving financial aid rose 70 percent in 2013, it was only reaching the numbers seen two years earlier.
The place where Irap funding really took off in 2012-13 is New Brunswick, though not in the way you’d expect. The New Brunswick startup community is more concentrated in IT than any other Atlantic province, and indeed its Irap contributions in ICT increased by one-third to $2.0 million. But that was dwarfed by growth in other segments – food and agriculture up 160 percent to $1.1 million; construction and related products up 497 percent to $1.1 million; and the “Other” category doubled to $1.1 million.
Irap funding for ICT is most pronounced in the region in Newfoundland and Labrabor, where the $2.2 million accounted for half the provincial total.
As might be expected, Nova Scotia was the largest recipient of Irap funding for health and life sciences – its $1.4 million accounts for 54 percent of the funding in the Atlantic Canadian life sciences segment. And P.E.I. punches above its weight in this category – with $391,000 of funding or 16 percent.
Irap Funded and Advisory Clients in Atlantic Canada
2008-9 206 558
2009-10 377 581
2010-11 344 283
2011-12 201 559
2012-13 340 606
This article first appeared in our June 2014 Entrevestor Intelligence report, which you can find here.