The National Research Council of Canada (NRC) and the federal government are launching a new program, a $20 million investment over two years, aimed at small to mid-sized businesses (SMBs), giving them access to services that will help them get to market more quickly.

Announced today, the new Business Innovation Access program will connect SMBs to universities, colleges and research institutions, helping them commercialize their products and services. For example, SMBs might get help with planning and marketing their businesses, as well as helping them with testing, product prototyping, and process development.

While the federal government is providing the funding for the program, the NRC and the Industrial Research Assistance Program (IRAP) will be running it. The IRAP provides a national network of mentors to SMBs in industrial technology.

So far, a number of university associations have signed on to voice their support, including the Association of Canadian Community Colleges, the U15 Group of Canadian Research Universities, and the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada.

“Innovative initiatives like the Business Innovation Access Program will help turn the R&D knowledge of university researchers into improved products, goods and services,” said Paul Davidson, president of the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada, in a statement.

“Business already counts on Canada’s universities for more than $1 billion in research. This program will boost university-business links even further, as more small and medium sized business owners will be able to put the expertise of universities to work leading to the creation of new jobs, improved products and greater prosperity.”

The Business Innovation Access program is just one result of a number of recommendations from the Research and Development Review Expert Panel, which aimed to find ways the government can invest its money to drive innovation and boost the Canadian economy.

Other recommendations have included creating a venture capital action plan, making the NRC more business-focused, and creating a service to help SMBs apply for specific government programs.

For SMBs interested in giving the new program a try, they can call 1-877-994-4727.

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