In a federal budget characterized by a minimum of new spending and investment, the small business and startup communities of Canada did receive some attention from finance minister Jim Flaherty on Thursday.
Research, business innovation and venture capital were all singled-out for special attention in the budget.
Under support for advanced research, the government pledged $37 million in new annual support for research partnerships with industry through the granting councils, $165 million in multi-year support for Genomics Canada and $225 million for the Canada Foundation for Innovation to support research infrastructure.
Within supporting business innovation, the National Research Council gets $121 million over two years to help innovative businesses grow and $325 million over eight years will help Sustainable Development Technology Canada support the development of clean technologies.
Of particular note is $20 million over three years to help SMBs access R&D services at universities and colleges.
Canada’s venture capital community is also getting some support. Some $60 million over five years will go to incubators and accelerators. And when a company is graduating from an accelerator, the Business Development Bank of Canada has $100 million to invest in those firms.
More generally, a number of budget initiatives around skills, training, internships and co-op placements could be useful for SMBs struggling to deal with the IT skills shortage.
“There’s good news here,” said Linda Leonard, senior vice-president of the Information Technology Association of Canada (ITAC), which represents the leading hardware and software manufacturers as well as big telecommunications companies.
“There’s some fairly interesting innovation in how they’re going to fund re-training, to make that more tailored to individual workers and employers looking for skills upgrades. That’s an interesting public policy innovation that could help address some of the issues that we encounter finding skilled workers in the ITC labour market. We’re an industry that’s predicated on the availability of talent, so any progressive measures aimed at better outcomes from the investment we’re making in training and re-training is going to be well received by the industry.”
It’s also encouraging that Ottawa is also putting money into co-op education programs, she said.
— With files from Howard Solomon, IT World Canada