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A chicken in every pot? You decide

January 29, 2009

Timely, targeted and temporary.

The guiding principles behind this week’s federal budget are, on the face of it, what one should expect from a minority Conservative government grappling with complex challenges unraveling the global economy.

As the pundits sniff the economic and political entrails of this critical budget, the MaRS Blog has pulled together a handful of highlights for entrepreneurs and those who seek to seed innovation and help it flourish.

  • $3 billion to the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) and the Export Development Corporation (EDC) to support additional financing for small- and medium-sized enterprises;
  • $200 million over two years to the National Research Council’s Industrial Research Assistance Program (IRAP);
  • Increasing the maximum eligible loan amount a small business can access under the Canada Small Business Financing Program;
  • Increasing access to credit for small businesses through proposed amendments to the Canada Small Business Financing Program as well as BDC;
  • Providing $30 million over two years for the Canada Business Network and $10 million to the Canadian Youth Business Foundation.
  • Establishing a new Clean Energy Fund for clean energy research, development and demonstration projects, including carbon capture and storage.

These commitments certainly recognize the importance of small- and mid-sized companies as well as R&D; the IRAP infusion for one offers a boost for many of MaRS’ entrepreneurial clients. The question remains, however, whether BDC, EDC, IRAP and the other federal programs have the ability to flow this much-needed capital into the hands of companies quickly enough to have a material impact in the current situation.

We are in grave danger of losing a significant number of young companies in Canada — in fact an entire generation of companies could close their doors if we’re not able to act quickly and decisively.

As MaRS CEO Ilse Treurnicht told CBC Radio’s Metro Morning: “These kind of companies are not flip-of-the-switch on-off endeavors. They are complex organisms that emerge often from many years of research and scientific inquiry. They attract capital in a very intricate mix of talent to get off ground.

“Restarting them at some point in the future — magically — is a fantasy so we have to maintain our momentum in building Canada’s innovation economy.”

To hear the rest of Dr. Treurnicht’s interview, click here (.mp3).

And to read more on the budget positions of a couple of Canada’s leading high-tech industry associations, check out BIOTECanada and ITAC.

A chicken in every pot? You decide.

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Linda Quattrin @ MaRS

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Linda Quattrin was a newspaper reporter and editor before applying her interest in science as communications director at Robarts Research Institute. A member of the Canadian Science Writers Association, she is responsible for media relations and corporate communications at MaRS.

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