Skating to Where the Puck Is Going to Be – How the IRAP ‘IP Assist’ Program Can Help With Startup Business Goals

December 6, 2022

Paul Blizzard, Julia London, Isi Caulder

Wayne Gretzky is famously quoted as saying “I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been”. IRAP’s IP Assist program provides financial support to help startup businesses strategically position themselves for future success using a well formulated and deliberate IP plan.

The Industrial Research Assistance Program (IRAP), administered by the National Research Council (NRC), provides funding to innovative Canadian small and medium-sized businesses. The mission of the program is to accelerate the growth of small and medium enterprises (SMEs), and help them take their ideas to market, by providing financial assistance and advisory services.

IRAP Overview

To become a client of IRAP, applicants must be:

  • an incorporated SME operating in Canada,
  • employ fewer than 500 employees, and
  • have an objective to grow through innovation.

IRAP will also assess the validity of the SME and consider criteria such as: business opportunity, management and financial capabilities, potential to achieve expected outcomes, as well as plans to commercialize results.

Structured as a contributions program, IRAP enters contracts with SMEs to complete specific projects where IRAP will cover a share of the costs. Typically, IRAP pays a share of costs for the agreed work including salary and contractor costs. The SME reports progress and invoices IRAP on a regular basis, typically monthly. Every IRAP client SME is paired with an Industry Technical Advisor (ITA) who assists the SME through the process

IRAP funding is expected to cover 50% to 80% of total project costs, depending on the proposal. Funds available to a company top out around $150,000, however, exceptions can be made on a case-by-case basis. 

IP Assist Program

In October 2021, IRAP launched their new intellectual property (IP) initiative, the IP Assist program. In the 2021 federal budget, the Government of Canada proposed to further support Canadian innovators, start-ups, and technology-intensive businesses by dedicating $75 million over three years to provide high-growth IRAP clients with access to expert IP services.

The focus of the IP Assist program is to help SMEs, who are existing clients of IRAP, improve their understanding and utilization of intellectual property concepts to better support their business strategies.

What Does IP Assist Cover?

IP Assist is designed as a three-Level program: learn, plan, and act:

Level 1: Learning: focused on educating SMEs about IP rights and exploring IP for business purposes. This step relies on extensive resources of organizations like CIPO to help educate IRAP clients.

Level 2: Planning: helping IRAP clients develop effective ways to use IP tools to support their business strategies by accessing IP expert service providers. Level 2 is focused on IP strategy and on best practices for the company. As an example, IP experts could help a company understand their current IP asset map as well as identify gaps and opportunities for further IP portfolio growth.

Level 3: Acting: helping IRAP clients address special issues and needs in IP, particularly as arising from the work of Level 2, the planning step. As an example, IP experts could develop an approach to licensing internationally, considering issues such as exclusivity, territory, license term, and rights to improvements.

IP Assist funding is available for steps 1 (Learning), 2 (Planning) and 3 (Acting). IRAP clients can access funds similarly to how they access funding through IRAP for other projects. If a SME is already an IRAP client, the Industrial Technology Advisor (ITA) will be able to help that SME with their proposal.

The IP Assist program is not intended to pay for IP filing or prosecution costs such as patent or trademark application filings.

As a leading Canadian IP law firm, B&Ps team of professionals are happy to help to assist with preparing a proposal for the IRAP IP Assist program, in addition to providing you with expert service in all areas of IP.

Click here to view the Canadian Intellectual Property Office's video "IP Talks Session 3: Intellectual property funding and support programs".


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