Canadian businesses, post-secondary institutions and not for profit research and innovation centres can apply to the Going Global Innovation (GGI) program to fund travel costs and meeting expenses to solidify international research and development (R&D) partnerships.
The program, created by Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada, is designed to stimulate international R&D partnerships that benefit Canadian innovators. GGI provides $5,000 to $75,000 to support up to 75% of travel costs and meeting expenses, including airfare, accommodations, meals, local transportation, visa fees and insurance. The funding support allows Canadian partners to meet face-to-face with international collaborators to finalize an R&D plan or agreement.
“The program fills a gap that we consider to be very important: the early stage of commercializing technology in international markets,” says Kevin Fitzgibbons, GGI director. “It’s important for Canada to be connected to the broader network of R&D to be a part of the next generation of products and services that are going to find their way into the market.”
Over the past 10 years, the program has expanded to provide funding of close to $1 million a year, Fitzgibbons says. In the last two years, 151 Canadian innovators received funding from the GGI program to meet with partners in countries such as China, France, India, Israel and Brazil.
Face-to-face meetings are key to developing effective R&D relationships, Fitzgibbons says. “We live in a world of Internet communication and telephone, where it’s very easy to speak to each other. But it’s not until you actually go in and sit down with a potential partner and take a look at the real capacity that the other partner is going to bring to the relationship that you can feel that you’ve really got a R&D partnership that will work,” he says.
Fitzgibbons says Canadian innovators can use the GGI funding to meet with international partners one-on-one to discuss what the partnership would entail, including the methodology, funding strategy, eventual commercialization and the next steps. “You need one-on-one conversations and face-to-face contact for that to happen,” says Fitzgibbons.
“We’re finding that a lot of the smaller companies are getting incredible expertise and connections that will do them an enormous amount of good later on when they are not only commercializing the individual product but trying to grow their company and find broader markets,” he says.
For example, Inventys Thermal Technologies, a cleantech company based in Burnaby, B.C., used GGI funding to launch a research and development consortium with five European oil companies and secured a $25-million grant from the European Union. Ontario-based Norton Scientific Inc. also used the GGI program to finalize a research and development partnership with university researchers in Scotland. The partners plan to design and develop tools to help speed up drug research for diseases including cancer.
GGI funding is targeted for a very specific part of the R&D process, says Fitzgibbons. He advises Canadian innovators to only apply to the program when they are in this “sweet spot.” GGI will not fund exploratory trips to assess and identify potential future partnerships or confirm partnership interest, says Fitzgibbons.
The funding also cannot be used for commercialization activities associated with R&D, such as sales product development, testing and market studies. To obtain funding, the Canadian SME or institution must have already established and confirmed a mutual interest in R&D collaboration with an international partner but not yet be in the process of commercialization, Fitzgibbons explains.
The funding must be used to either solidify a partnership or finalize a plan to collaborate on R&D. Fitzgibbons says his number one tip for potential GGI applicants is to only apply when they are at this specific stage of finalizing an international partnership. “We need people to do their homework beforehand,” he says. “Make sure that you know who those potential partners are and what their real interests would be. The purpose of your meeting should be to confirm and validate some of the background work that you’ve done.”
As well, Fitzgibbons says innovators should think about what they would like to achieve in the long term before applying to the GGI program. For example, he says SMEs and institutions should consider the commercial applications of their product, the intellectual property arrangement with their partners and ongoing funding for the research. “Quite often companies and research institutions really haven’t gone through that thought process enough in order for them to really get the value of this,” he says.
How to apply
Canadian innovators can apply for GGI funding by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Applications are accepted on an ongoing basis and must be submitted at least eight weeks before the departure date.