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CanExport SMEs: Applicant's guide

CanExport SMEs – accepting applications from February 29, 2024, at 9am EST, to May 31, 2024, at 5pm EDT for projects beginning on or after April 1, 2024.

We strongly encourage each applicant to carefully review the Applicant's Guide (below), as updated for 24-25, before submitting their application.

Please continue to consult this page for program updates.

The mandate of the CanExport SMEs program is to support the export efforts of Canadian companies who are the primary producers of goods and services and/ or key players in the exportation of Canadian goods and services, into new international markets. The program funds projects that have the potential to contribute significantly to Canada's economic growth by providing up to $50,000 to SMEs registered in Canada for international business development activities.

CanExport SMEs is a competitive program with limited funding. Applications are processed on a first-come, first-served basis. Once funds are fully allocated, the program no longer accepts applications for funding.

Table of contents

  1. Program overview
  2. Eligible companies
    1. 2.1 Eligibility criteria
    2. 2.2 Ineligible companies
    3. 2.3 Ineligible projects
    4. 2.4 Companies in the agriculture and agri-food sector
  3. How our funding works
    1. 3.1 Funding mechanism
    2. 3.2 Project time frame
    3. 3.3 Trade missions for under-represented groups
    4. 3.4 Stacking limit for government funding
    5. 3.5 Funding limits
    6. 3.6 Concurrent projects
  4. Eligible international markets
    1. 4.1 Target markets
    2. 4.2 Ineligible markets
    3. 4.3 Sub-national markets
  5. Eligible expenses
    1. 5.1 Category A: Travel for meetings or events
    2. 5.2 Category B: Trade events
    3. 5.3 Category C: Marketing and translation
    4. 5.4 Category D: Interpretation services
    5. 5.5 Category E: Contractual agreements, product registration and certification
    6. 5.6 Category F: Consultant - Business, tax and legal advice
    7. 5.7 Category G: Consultant - Market research, feasibility studies, identification of key contacts, B2B
    8. 5.8 Category H: IP protection including expert/legal services for IP related expenses for target market(s)
    9. 5.9 Eligibility of a consultant/contractor
    10. 5.10 Ineligible expenses
  6. How to build a project
    1. 6.1 Steps to submit a successful application
  7. Assessment criteria
    1. 7.1Criteria 1: Pursuing new or expanded initiatives ("Incrementality")
    2. 7.2 Criteria 2: Export business case
    3. 7.3 Criteria 3: Market potential
    4. 7.4 Criteria 4: Exporting readiness and history
    5. 7.5 Criteria 5: Global Affairs Canada priorities
  8. How to apply
    1. 8.1 Working with the Trade Commissioner Service
    2. 8.2 Submitting an application
    3. 8.3 Processing time
  9. After applying
    1. 9.1 Decision
    2. 9.2 Payments
    3. 9.3 Amendment to the funding agreement
    4. 9.4 Disclosure of change of circumstances
    5. 9.5 Closing a project
    6. 9.6 Reporting requirements
  10. Contact us

1. Program overview

CanExport SMEs is a funding program designed to promote and enhance Canada's trade diversification efforts. It offers grants and contributions to Canadian companies to help them prepare for and establish a presence in international markets where they currently have little or no sales.

The program focuses on export marketing activities of existing products and services in foreign markets. Activities designed to attract investment or related to a company's day to day operations in Canada are ineligible. Activities related to the development, production and distribution of new products and services are also ineligible.

CanExport SMEs supports exploratory activities as well as activities that contribute toward a longer-term strategy for internationalization. Each project can include up to 5 international markets to help companies accelerate their growth and pursue a regional expansion strategy. The choice of 8 activity categories allows for a high degree of project customization.

The program is delivered by the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service (TCS), Global Affairs Canada, in partnership with the National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC IRAP).

2. Eligible companies

CanExport SMEs is open to all industry sectors.

2.1 Eligibility criteria

To be eligible, your company must satisfy the following criteria:

Example of how to count full-time employees

Your company has 5 part-time employees on its payroll. Each employee works one day per week. Over the span of one year, these employees represent the equivalent of 1 full-time employee.

Declared annual revenue

CanExport SMEs reserves the right to validate information provided in your application. We may do so by requesting a copy of your GST 34 return or FP-500-V for Quebec based applicants.

To complete your application, the amount from the following section of your taxes for your company's last complete fiscal year should be used:

For monthly and quarterly filers, please use the most recent 12-month period.

Companies that have not filed a tax return should apply only after they have the required financial information.

We do not grant exemptions to the annual revenue eligibility requirement for companies that:

2.2 Ineligible companies

All other forms of business structures are not eligible, such as, sole proprietorships and limited partnerships (LP).

Third-party representatives

Are generally not eligible for CanExport SMEs funding. These would include but are not limited to:

2.3 Ineligible projects

A project where a company applies on behalf of another entity identified by a different business number, is not eligible.

Projects in the Cannabis and recreational substance inhalation sector

Funding is not offered for projects that have a focus on recreational cannabis, even in jurisdictions where its use is legal. This includes projects that focus on the cultivation or supply of recreational cannabis, as well as ancillary products related to its cultivation or use. For projects focusing on medical cannabis, it is the applicant's responsibility to demonstrate how its products or services qualify as medical and how they comply with Government of Canada policies.

Additionally, funding is not available for projects focusing on tobacco, vaping or any similar industries involving recreational substance inhalation.

2.4 Companies in the agriculture and agri-food sector

Since August 2019, CanExport SMEs, along with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, supports companies in the agriculture and agri-food sector in the development of their international business activities.

Events covered by the Canada Pavilion Program are not eligible for CanExport SMEs funding. This is true even when AAFC is not providing financial support for participation in the Canada Pavilion Program.

Eligible companies may request CanExport SMEs funding to participate in international trade shows outside of the Canada Pavilion Program events only.

3. How our funding works

CanExport SMEs strives to provide funding decision within 60 business days. These service standards may vary depending on the volume of applications received.

The program is competitive, and the funding is limited. Applications are processed on a first-come, first-served basis until all funds are allocated. Once funds for the fiscal year are fully allocated, applications will no longer be accepted.

Funding is provided in the form of cost-sharing between the recipient and CanExport SME. The applicant may apply for funding with a minimum budget of $20,000 and up to $100,000 per project.

The program funds up to 50% of eligible costs from $10,000 to $50,000 in funding per project. The applicant is responsible for the remaining 50% (in-kind contributions are not permitted).

Note: The amount of funding granted may differ from the initial amount requested.

3.1 Funding mechanism

Financial assistance can take the form of a contribution or a grant.

The funding mechanism is determined based on a risk assessment of the applicant and the project. Each application is assessed on its own merit.

Contributions work on a reimbursement-basis and have additional reporting requirements. For contributions, applicants must have sufficient cash flow to fund their proposed activities in their entirety, prior to reimbursement. Activities must be completed, invoiced and paid prior to submitting claims for reimbursement.

Grants are issued once the funding agreement is signed and does not require recipients to submit a claim. Receiving a grant for a given project does not guarantee receiving a grant in a future year. Each application is subject to a risk assessment and, notwithstanding a previous decision.

The approval of a project (contribution or grant) in one year does not guarantee approval of a project in a subsequent year. as A ll projects are assessed on their own merit and based on the relative competition in a given year.

See Section 9.2 for more details about payments terms.

3.2 Project time frame

Expenses must be incurred, and activities completed in the fiscal year for which the funding was provided.

3.3 Global Affairs Canada (GAC)-led trade missions for businesses from diverse backgrounds

Companies invited to participate in trade missions organized by GAC for businesses owned or managed by an individual belonging to a group traditionally underrepresented in international trade such as women, Indigenous Peoples, LGBTQ2+, and visible minorities, may exceptionally submit a project of less than $20,000 for consideration. Approved projects are funded at 50%.

There are no exceptions to eligibility criteria for companies that participate in a GAC-led trade mission.

3.4 Stacking limit for government funding

CanExport SMEs' stacking limit applies when funding is accessed from different Canadian government sources for the same activities within a project.

We calculate stacking based on the total funding provided by federal, provincial, territorial, or municipal governments, or Crown corporations. Canadian government assistance must not exceed 75%.

Applicants must identify all Canadian government sources of funding for each expenditure submitted as part of their application. Failure to disclose all other sources of funding may lead to:

If total Canadian government assistance exceeds the stacking limit of 75%, CanExport SMEs will be adjust the funding to comply with this limit.

3.5 Funding limits

CanExport SMEs identifies each company by their Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) business number:

Failure to disclose pre-existing relationships and affiliations, can lead CanExport SMEs to terminate the grant or contribution agreement. This includes relationships and affiliations between the recipient and its consultants.

3.6 Concurrent projects

CanExport SMEs does not support concurrent projects. Projects needs to be finalized before a new application can be submitted. NRC IRAP requires 30 business days to process final claims and report before a new application can be submitted to the program.

4. Eligible international markets

4.1 Target markets

CanExport SMEs supports market diversification by helping Canadian companies introduce their products and services in up to 5 new and eligible Target markets.

Target market

defined as a country (or sub-national market) where a company wishes to secure new customers or generate new sales. Activities described in an application must be directly linked to the Target market. A Target market is not a continent, geographical area, or group of countries.

A Target market is new and eligible if, during the company's last complete tax reporting year (or last 12 months for monthly and quarterly filers) sales for that market were:

less than $100,000. If sales generated in the target market were greater than $100,000, then the following criteria would apply:

sales for that target market must be less than 10% of the company's total sales (domestic and international sales combined).

Destination
defined as a country (or sub-national market) where the project activities take place. For some projects the "Target market" and "Destination" will be different.

Example of a target market and destination

A company wishes to secure new customers or generate sales in France. A major trade show in Germany will be held and customers from several countries including France will be attending. In your project, your target market will be France with the addition of Germany as a destination only for travel activities and participation in a commercial event.

4.2 Ineligible markets

Efforts to introduce new business lines in markets where the applicant has already generated more revenue than defined in section 4.1 are not eligible for funding. To determine sales in a market, CanExport SMEs considers brick-and-mortar retail sales as well as online sales.

Moreover, it is important for applicants to stay informed about Canadian economic sanctions. Sanctions may be placed against a country or a specific individual or entity. CanExport SMEs may decline funding for reasons of national interest. For more information, please visit Current sanctions imposed by Canada.

4.3 Sub-national markets

Brazil, China, India and the United States (US) are segmented into independent sub-national markets.

Each sub-national market counts as one choice toward your company's maximum of 5 target markets per project. In your application, you must disclose export sales for the chosen sub-national market.

Brazil: sub-national markets

We recognize Brazil to have 4 markets for the purpose of this program:

East-Central Brazil
  • Espírito Santo
  • Minas Gerais
  • Rio de Janeiro
North and West Brazil
  • Acre
  • Alagoas
  • Amapá
  • Amazonas
  • Bahia
  • Ceará
  • Distrito Federal
  • Goiás
  • Maranhao
  • Mato Grosso
  • Mato Grosso do Sul
  • Pará
  • Paraïba
  • Pernambuco
  • Piauí
  • Rio Grande do Norte
  • Rondônia
  • Roraima
  • Sergipe
  • Tocantins
São Paulo

São Paulo

South Brazil
  • Paraná
  • Rio Grande do Sul
  • Santa Catarina

China: sub-national markets

We recognize China to have 4 markets for the purpose of this program:

East China
  • Anhui
  • Hubei
  • Jiangsu
  • Shanghai
  • Zhejiang
South China
  • Fujian
  • Guangdong
  • Guangxi
  • Hainan
  • Hunan
  • Jiangxi
  • Macau
North China
  • Beijing
  • Gansu
  • Hebei
  • Heilongjiang
  • Henan
  • Inner Mongolia
  • Jilin
  • Liaoning
  • Ningxia
  • Qinghai
  • Shaanxi
  • Shandong
  • Shanxi
  • Tianjin
  • Tibet
  • Xinjiang
West China
  • Chongqing
  • Guizhou
  • Sichuan
  • Yunnan

India: sub-national markets

We recognize India to have 3 markets for the purpose of this program:

North and East India
  • Andaman and Nicobar Islands
  • Arunachal Pradesh
  • Assam
  • Bihar
  • Chandigarh
  • Chhattisgarh
  • Haryana
  • Himachal Pradesh
  • Jammu and Kashmir
  • Jharkhand
  • Lakshadweep
  • Manipur
  • Meghalaya
  • Mizoram
  • Nagaland
  • New Delhi
  • Odisha
  • Punjab
  • Rajasthan
  • Sikkim
  • Tripura
  • Uttar Pradesh
  • Uttarakhand
  • West Bengal
South India
  • Andhra Pradesh
  • Kerala
  • Karnataka
  • Puducherry
  • Tamil Nadu
  • Telangana
West India
  • Dadra and Nagar Haveli
  • Daman and Diu
  • Goa
  • Gujarat
  • Madhya Pradesh
  • Maharashtra

The United States (US): sub-national markets

We recognize the US to have 4 markets for the purpose of this program:

Midwest US
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kentucky
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri
  • Nebraska
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • South Dakota
  • Wisconsin
Southern US
  • Alabama
  • Arkansas
  • District of Columbia
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Louisiana
  • Mississippi
  • New Mexico
  • North Carolina
  • Oklahoma
  • Puerto Rico
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • U.S. Virgin Islands
  • Virginia
  • West Virginia
Northeast US
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • Vermont
West US
  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Hawaii
  • Idaho
  • Kansas
  • Montana
  • Nevada
  • Oregon
  • Utah
  • Washington
  • Wyoming

5. Eligible expenses

Eligible expenses are described below and fall within the eight (8) categories listed.

For an "eligible expense" to be valid:

In all cases:

Important

Applicants must link every activity for which they request funding to a new and eligible target market. We reserve the right to request any evidence in support of costs incurred by your company, including work performed by consultants.

5.1 Category A: Travel for meetings or events with key contacts

Important

For travel related activities, applicants are responsible of ensuring that the planned destination travel advisory risk levels allow for travel activities to take place, before submitting an application. Applicants are encouraged to make informed decisions to minimize risks and protect their health and that of their employees. Please refer the Government of Canada Travel Advisories for the most recent information.

CanExport SMEs reserves the right to deny travel funding requests for any reason, at our sole and absolute discretion.

Trade events
defined as trade fairs, conferences, seminars, international forums or private exhibitions occurring in the approved Target market/Destination. Participation can be virtual or in-person. Travel and trade events taking place in Canada are ineligible. Applicants must provide substantial rational on how their proposed travel activities benefit the development of their business in target markets.
Destination
defined as a country (or sub-national market) where the project activities take place. For some projects the "Target market" and "Destination" will be different. For more information refer to section 4.1.

How international travel expenses are assessed

Three (3) criteria are used to assess the international travel expenses:

1: Travel duration

The applicant must provide an outline of travel dates and activities for each trip. Reasonable travel duration is determined based on the scope and complexity of the activities the applicant intends to undertake. Per diem expenses are limited to 30 consecutive days for round-trip travel and for up to two travelers only. For each trip planned, indicate the number of travelers and the number of days they expect to travel or conduct business.

2: Number of participants

Recipients can submit travel expenses for a maximum of 2 travelers per trip.

"Travelers": defined as owners and/or employees of the company based in Canada. Employees must be legally permitted to work in Canada and must be on the applicant company's payroll.

3: Costs

Funding is allocated per traveler based on a review of the estimated costs in the application. The applicant must provide reasonable, economical quotes and consider, where possible, advance booking.

Receipts are not required for meals and incidentals; however, your receipts (e.g. accommodation receipt, airline tickets, etc.) should be kept for 5 years in the event of an audit.

* Estimates that appear high may impact the approval of your activity and/or project. A strong rationale must be provided for estimates considered higher than the standard.

Airfare

defined as a refundable roundtrip economy or premium economy flight, departing from Canada to the approved project "Target market/Destination", directly or via a layover. Airfare costs must be booked and paid for after the project start date and travel must begin and end prior to the project completion date. The use of reward program points is not permitted. In exceptional circumstances such as cost savings, flights departing from a country other than Canada may be considered.

Higher class fares are generally not permitted. However, CanExport can accept, with supporting evidence and justification, the selection of higher-class fares, provided the cost does not exceed the equivalent for economy or premium economy class on a direct route.

Ground Transportation
defined as the costs related to the use of a ride-share service, taxi, bus, train or subway. It also includes costs related to vehicle rental, and associated costs for gas, parking and tolls, during the stay in the approved project "Target market/Destination". Vehicle rentals must be made via a reputable vehicle rental company.
Per diem
consists of a total daily allowance of $400 to cover accommodation, meals, and incidentals for each eligible traveler participating in an approved round trip to conduct business only. This includes the departure and return days and may not exceed 30 consecutive days for a maximum of two eligible travellers per round trip. Personal days must be deducted from the number of days claimed.
Mandatory visa fee
consists of the cost incurred to obtain a visa required for travel to an approved Target market/Destination.

Other eligible travel related costs:

Note: Applicants that purchase a Travel Package that includes any combination of airfare, accommodation, meals or rental vehicles must provide an invoice with a breakdown of each component for the costs to be considered by CanExport.

All other travel-related costs are ineligible and cannot be claimed. See examples of ineligible expenses

5.2 Category B: Trade events - non-travel related

CanExport SMEs may support non-travel related expenses associated to participation in international trade events. Participation to trade events is limited to owners and/or employees of the company based in Canada. Employees must be legally permitted to work in Canada and must be on the payroll.

The following expenses are eligible:

Attendance in a Trade Event
defined as registering to attend an international trade event for a maximum of 2 Travelers per event. A Trade event must be named and have confirmed dates to be eligible.
Exhibition Fees
defined as the cost of registering as an exhibitor (space/booth) for a Trade event in an approved Target market/Destination. Exhibition Fees also include the costs associated with the on-site design and construction of a booth, rental of a booth, electrical and Wi-Fi costs, rental of business card scanners or audiovisual equipment and liability insurance. Items purchased and that can be re-used or re-purposed are ineligible. Where the trade event mandates sponsorship or membership for participation, CanExport will reimburse the cost of the lowest sponsorship or membership tier. In all other cases, sponsorships and memberships are not eligible.
Return Shipping and Handling Costs
defined as the cost associated with shipping print marketing materials, booth pop-ups and products for Trade events and returning to Canada. For companies in the agri-food sector, the shipping of food samples is also eligible. This also includes the cost of shipping prototypes to the Target market/Destination. All prototypes must be returned to Canada and cannot be sold.

All other costs related to Trade events are ineligible and cannot be claimed. See examples of ineligible expenses

5.3 Category C: Marketing and translation

CanExport SMEs can support marketing and translation activities when they are created, adapted or translated for your Target market(s). Adaptation requires significantly enhancing existing marketing tools with new features, functionality or foreign language availability.& The Program does not cover in-house activities, such as employee salaries or activities considered "core" and not specifically designed for the Target market(s); the application must demonstrate that the proposed activities are incremental.

See CanExport's eligibility of a consultant/contractor.

Marketing and advertising costs should be reasonable and support the objective of the project proposal.

The following activities are eligible:

Translation
defined as the cost associated with the translation of new or existing marketing material from English or French to a language used in the Target market.
Adapting a Website
defined as the cost of engaging with an independent contractor to create a landing page for an existing website, adapt an existing website specifically for your Target market, or create a new website component geared specifically for your Target market. Costs related to adapting or creating a blog for your Target market are also included. In all cases, evidence is required of how these activities are tailored for the Target market(s). Online hosting fees are ineligible.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
defined as the cost of engaging with an independent contractor to optimize a new or existing website that is geared specifically for your Target market. Costs associated with App Store Optimization are also included.
Promotional Material
defined as the cost of creating promotional material specifically designed for the Target market to be used at a Trade event and/or in meetings with stakeholders in the Target market. Promotional material includes brochures, pamphlets, flyers, banners, posters, sales decks, post cards, content writing, copywriting, digital magazine articles and associated photography. In all cases, a detailed explanation of the product adaptation for the target market is required.
Videos
defined as the cost of creating a new video or adapting an existing video for use at a Trade event, in meetings with stakeholders or online advertising for the Target market. Other supported costs include infographics, voiceover, animations, closed captioning, content writing, editing, videography, photography, lighting and equipment, studio rental, and sub-titles. In all cases, a detailed explanation of the product adaptation for the target market is required.
Online Advertising
is defined as the cost charged by online platforms to advertise to a targeted audience. Advertising must be targeted only to audiences in the approved Target market and cannot include advertising to other markets such as Canada. These also include costs to advertise in online magazines and online industry publications and includes costs to sponsor content (advertorial) or banner ads.

Advertising can be done on the following platforms:

In all cases, CanExport will not support fees to access these platforms or hosting fees. Only advertising fees are supported.

All other costs related to Marketing and Translation are ineligible and cannot be claimed. See examples of ineligible expenses

5.4 Category D: Interpretation services

CanExport SMEs may support paying for an interpreter to facilitate teleconference/videoconference meetings or in person interactions (when travel permits) with key contacts from target market(s). In your application, indicate the language for which you need interpretation.

Interpreter
defined as costs incurred to engage an independent contractor to provide interpretation services to support international business development in your Target market. Travel expenses and per diem for an interpreter are ineligible.

5.5 Category E: Contractual agreements, Product registration and Certification

CanExport SMEs may support the adaptation and translation of contractual agreements, fees paid to regulatory agencies for certification and the registration of a product in a Target market(s).

Eligible expenses under this category include:

Adaptation and Translation of Contractual Agreements
consists of the costs incurred to engage an independent contractor to adapt and/or translate sales contracts, distribution agreements, nondisclosure agreements and other similar contractual agreements required to penetrate your Target market.
Certification
consists of the application fees paid to obtain a certification that is required to access a jurisdiction in your Target market. Fees related to product testing, examinations, inspections and/or product development to secure the certification are not eligible
Registration
is defined as the fees paid to register a product in your Target market. This does not include fees to register your company in the market.
Supplier Diversity Certification
consists of fees required to obtain supplier diversity certification for companies that are owned by women (e.g., WeConnect International, WBE Canada), Indigenous Peoples, visible minorities (e.g., Canadian Aboriginal and Minority Supplier Council – CAMSC), or members of the LGBTQ2 community. The applicant must clearly demonstrate that the certification is for the Target market and recognized in that market.

All other costs related to contractual agreements, product registration and certification are ineligible and cannot be claimed. See examples of ineligible expenses

5.6 Category F: Consultant – Business, Tax and Legal advice

CanExport SMEs may support consultant and/or legal fees for expert business, tax or legal advice pertaining to your Target markets.

Eligible expenses under consultant fees for expert advice include:

Expert advice for legal, tax or business matters
consists of fees paid to a Consultant, such as an accounting firm, a legal firm and/or a business consulting firm for advice relating specifically to legal, tax or business matters for your Target market.
Expert advice on regulatory issues
consists of fees paid to a Consultant and/or a legal firm for advice on issues such as market access and certifications relating specifically to your Target market.
Expert advice on digital and e-commerce marketing
consists of fees paid to a consultant to help develop a digital and e-commerce marketing strategy specific to the Target market(s).

See CanExport's eligibility of a consultant/contractor.

All other costs related to consultants for business, tax and legal advice are ineligible and cannot be claimed. See examples of ineligible expenses.

5.7 Category G: Consultant - Market research, feasibility studies, identification of key contacts, B2B facilitation

CanExport SMEs may support the costs for a consultant to provide services or create products for international business development (IBD) for Target market(s), namely:

See CanExport's eligibility of a consultant/contractor.

The purchase of IBD tools for the duration of your project may be eligible with appropriate justification:

All other costs for market research, feasibility studies, identification of key contacts and B2B facilitation are ineligible and cannot be claimed. See examples of ineligible expenses

5.8 Category H: Intellectual Property (IP) Protection, Including Expert/Legal Services for IP Related Expenses for Target Market(s)

CanExport SMEs may support expenses related to the protection of intellectual property (IP) in your Target market.

Eligible expenses under this category include:

All other costs related to IP protection, are ineligible and cannot be claimed. See examples of ineligible expenses.

See eligibility of a consultant/contractor.

For information on meeting international standards, protecting your IP rights and other in-market legal considerations, please consult the Step 9 of the TCS Step-by-Step Guide to Exporting.

5.9 Eligibility of a consultant/contractor

Fees for the services of a consultant and/or contractor, including legal services, may be claimed for achieving the international business development objectives of a CanExport SME project. When choosing a consultant/contractor please note the following:

5.10 Ineligible expenses

Ongoing, operational activities, or activities that are considered core to the applicant's business and not specific to pursuing export opportunities in a new target market are ineligible. Please consult the list of ineligible expenses.

Products and services funded by the CanExport program must be used strictly for the export development of the rec ipient's target market(s). CanExport reci pients cannot profit from the resale of products and services that were funded by their CanExport project.

For example, the results of a market study funded by the CanExport SME program cannot be sold to another company.

Important

If you are unsure about the eligibility of any of your proposed expenses, please contact us prior to undertaking the activity and incurring the expense.

Contact CanExport SMEs (canexportsmes@international.gc.ca)

6. Applying for CanExport SMEs Funding

CanExport SMEs defines a project as the ensemble of activities for which a company requests funding in its application. Do not confuse it with a construction project or your company's broader expansion plans.

Your application must explain your project in the context of your CanExport SMEs funding request. Answers should be concise. The program will assess the quality and the pertinence of information provided.

Steps to submit a successful application

  1. Step 1: Select a maximum of 5 international markets in which your company wishes to make sales or secure new customers and describe reasons for choosing your Target market(s).
  2. Step 2: Confirm that each market you have chosen meets CanExport SMEs' definition of a new and eligible Target market.

    • In your application, indicate your company's total revenue and revenues for each Target market for the last complete fiscal year (or past 12 months for quarterly or monthly filers).
    • When including sub-national markets, indicate your company's total revenue in the sub-national market selected.
  3. Step 3: For each target market, set realistic objectives and outline a detailed plan of action.

    • In your application, present a solid business case for undertaking the project.
  4. Step 4: For each target market, select from 8 categories of activities to help you achieve your objectives. The exact combination will vary depending on market requirements and your company's profile.

    • In your application, verify that each of your proposed expenses is eligible by carefully reviewing Section 5: Eligible expenses.
    • If your project necessitates travel outside of your Target market(s), select the relevant Destination and clearly explain how these trips relate to your Target market(s).
  5. Step 5: Provide a detailed and specific budget. Do not include any activities that are "To be confirmed" or "To be determined."

    • In your application, verify that the total budget for your proposed activities is between $20,000 and $100,000.
  6. Step 6: Allow a realistic timeframe in which to conduct your activities.

    • In your application, it is recommended to allow at least 60 business days between the date you submit your application and the date your first activity takes place. Any expenses incurred before the program provides a funding decision will be at the applicant's risk.
    • Select a project termination date that corresponds to the duration of the project's proposed activities. Be aware that companies can have only one active CanExport SMEs project at a time.

7. Assessment criteria

CanExport SMEs is a competitive program with limited funding. All applications are assessed against the same merit criteria and scored relative to:

Funding is awarded on a competitive basis for activities that will be most effective in achieving their international business development goals. A company's resources and capacities are considered during the assessment of a project. Funding decisions are final and non-negotiable. Funding amounts awarded will not necessarily equal the amount requested.

CanExport SMEs reserves the right to refuse an application for the following reasons:

Important: Applicants who have had a previous project approved!

New applications should clearly explain how the new project builds on or makes changes to the previous project, and why. For example, the application should explain any changes to the international business development strategy or not, and why; indicate rationale for repeat markets or activities; and provide any other relevant information that may help in the assessment of your application relative to the assessment criteria below.

Applications are assessed using the following criteria:

Criteria 1: Pursuing new or expanded initiatives ("Incrementality")

The program will assess if the project:

Criteria 2: Export business case

The program will assess the quality and pertinence of answers to the following questions:

Criteria 3: Market potential

The program will assess the choice of target markets by:

Criteria 4: Exporting readiness and history

The program will review:

*CanExport SMEs takes into consideration a company's funding lapse rate. The program expects the client to claim at least 80% of the funds awarded. Companies should notify the program immediately if funds will not be utilized.

Criteria 5: Global Affairs Canada trade priorities

We give special consideration to projects aligned with Government of Canada's Export Diversification Strategy. These include projects that:

8. How to apply

8.1 Working with the Trade Commissioner Service

The Canadian Trade Commissioner Service (TCS) helps Canadian companies navigate the complexities of international markets and make better business decisions. On the ground in more than 160 cities worldwide, the TCS shares market intelligence, uncovers opportunities for Canadian companies and helps to manage risk and reduce business costs. The TCS is a free service of the Government of Canada that helps companies prepare for international markets, assess market potential, find qualified contacts, resolve business problems, and provide advice on how to protect IP when doing business abroad. For further guidance, please reach out to your trade commissioner.

Applicants can find a trade commissioner responsible for their sectors in Canada and in international markets.

For assistance with the agriculture and agri-food sector in the domestic Canadian markets, Applicants are invited to consult with Agriculture and Agri-food Canada.

8.2 Submitting an application

Application system

Note: Our online portal is optimized for Chrome, Edge and Firefox.

Ensure you regularly save your information as you progress through the online application process. For security reasons, your session will automatically time out after 2 hours of inactivity and unsaved work will not be saved.

Information will be lost if not saved before:

Click here and follow the Steps for submitting a CanExport SMEs application

8.3 Processing time

CanExport SMEs strives to provide a funding decision within 60 business days. It is best to allow at least 60 business days between the date of submission and the date the first activity takes place. Any expenses incurred before the program provides a funding decision will be at the applicant's risk.

For first-time applicants, please allow an additional 7 business days for the program to process the Application Basic Eligibility.

9. After applying

9.1 Decision

After an application is assessed, a decision email is sent to the Legal Signing Authority. Please note that decisions are final and non-negotiable.

Important

Any expenses incurred before the funding agreement is signed is at the applicant's own risk.

Any expenses incurred before CanExport SMEs communicates a decision are at the applicant's own risk.

CanExport SMEs can only provide information about an application to individuals identified in the application. Authorization can be delegated to another individual by emailing canexportsmes@international.gc.ca.

Unsuccessful applicants

To be reconsidered, applicants will have to submit a new project for review taking into consideration the comments provided by the program.

Successful applicants

Recipients can expect to receive their funding agreement by email within 10-12 business days. An authorized individual of the firm will need to review, sign and return the funding agreement within 20 business days of the date of receipt.

If the funding agreement is not returned within 20 business days, the funding will be considered forfeited.

The funding agreement is a legally binding document. It stipulates the responsibilities and obligations of both signing parties: the recipient and CanExport SMEs, on behalf of Global Affairs Canada.

The funding agreement outlines:

NRC IRAP manages all funding agreements, processes claims and issues payments. All questions regarding funding agreements, claims and reporting should be directed to NRC IRAP (nrc.canexport.cnrc@nrc-cnrc.gc.ca).

9.2 Payments

CanExport SMEs will reimburse eligible expenses in Canadian dollars. If project expenses are incurred in another currency, proof of the exchange rate for the transaction should be kept.

Funding recipients must keep adequate financial records and segregate CanExport project costs from their normal operation costs. This is to provide traceability of CanExport expenses.

Recipients must keep receipts, proofs of payment, and proof of travel for 5 years after completion of their project in case of an audit.

Contribution recipients

Contribution recipients are required to submit a claim through the portal for reimbursement of eligible expenses. It is imperative that recipients complete the status report as part of their claim. The processing of claims can take up to 30 business days.

It is strongly recommended that recipients submit a claim every 2 months throughout the duration of their project and not wait for the end of a project. The final claim and the final report must be submitted within 7 days after the project completion date. Both the claim and final report are completed electronically on the client's portal. The Legal Signing Authority is responsible to identify in the portal the project contacts who require access to the reporting module.

Grant recipients

Once NRC IRAP receives a signed copy of the funding agreement, payment is issued to successful grant recipients. Grant recipients do not submit claims.

For projects spanning more than one Government of Canada fiscal year, the program makes payments according to the fiscal year distribution of your agreement.

Payments may take up to 30 business days.

Important

Advise us immediately if you will not be using all of the funds provided for your project. Lapsing funds without sufficient justification will impact your company's ability to secure future CanExport SMEs funding.

To inform us that you do not require all your approved funding, write to canexportsmes@international.gc.ca, copying NRC IRAP (nrc.canexport.cnrc@nrc-cnrc.gc.ca).

9.3 Amendment to the funding agreement

Note: That recipients can reallocate funds between approved target market(s) and categories of activities as long asif the expenses respect the total allocation per fiscal year and take place during the project phase. Small modifications are permitted as long asif they are in line with the strategy outlined in the application.

It is possible for recipients of contribution funding to request a formal change to the terms of their funding agreement. Only one amendment per project is permitted.

Amendments are only considered on an extraordinary basis when applicants provide a strong rationale. The following conditions need to be met prior to requesting an amendment:

We cannot amend grant agreements or expired contribution agreements. In exceptional cases, grant agreements can be amended to extend the completion date only.

Knowing when to request an amendment

Contribution agreements are most commonly amended to:

Approval of your amendment request is required prior to making any changes to your project. CanExport SMEs reserves the right to approve or refuse amendment requests. To request an amendment, email canexportsmes@international.gc.ca, copying NRC IRAP (nrc.canexport.cnrc@nrc-cnrc.gc.ca).

9.3.1 Adding a travel destination

An amendment is required to add a Destination that supports activities in approved Target market(s). You must submit the request before travelling. Trips to new destinations will not be approved retroactively.

9.3.2 Adding an activity category

An amendment is required to add an activity category to your project.

9.3.3 Changing dates of activities or extending the project termination date

Funding is allocated by government fiscal year (April 1 to March 31 of the following year). Funds cannot be reallocated from one fiscal year to another. It is not possible to extend activities or the project termination date into a new government fiscal year.

Changing the date of your approved activity is permitted if the activity takes place within the duration of your project.

Extending the project termination date will be considered under exceptional circumstances. However, the new end date must be within the government fiscal year approved in the funding agreement.

9.3.4 Requesting additional funding

Amendments requesting additional funds are only considered on an extraordinary basis and if a strong rationale is provided. CanExport SMEs will assess how your project is progressing. Requests for additional funding by a company that has not submitted any claims will be refused automatically.

9.3.5 Not eligible for an amendment

Adding a target market: Expanding into a target market outside of your approved project is a significant change from the original agreement. As such, it is ineligible for an amendment. To pivot to a new target market, you will need to close your active project and submit a new application.

Removing an approved target market: an amendment is not required if you will not be conducting activities in all ofall the target markets approved for your project. You may reallocate funding for a given target market to other approved target markets, as long asif you respect the total allocation per fiscal year.

Removing an approved activity category: an amendment is not required if you will not be conducting activities in all the categories approved for your project. You may reallocate funding for a given activity category to other approved categories and approved target markets, if you respect the total allocation per fiscal year.

9.4 Disclosure of change of circumstances

Please inform us of any issue that is likely to affect your project, such as key changes to your company or its business activities, particularly if they affect your ability to complete your project, carry on business and pay debts due.

You must also inform us if you become aware of a breach of terms and conditions under the funding agreement, or any changes to information that identifies your company such as:

9.5 Closing a project

We only allow applicants to have one active project at a time. Applicants can close their project by submitting a final report and any outstanding claims to NRC IRAP (nrc.canexport.cnrc@nrc-cnrc.gc.ca). Processing time for final claims is approximately 20 business days. Once NRC IRAP officially closes the project, you are free to submit a new project for consideration to the CanExport SMEs program.

9.6 Reporting requirements

Interim report

Grant recipients approved for a project that spans more than one Government of Canada fiscal year must complete an interim report by March 31. They must do so to receive payment for the next fiscal year. The interim report asks for details on how your project is progressing.

Final report

All recipients must submit a final report no later than 7 days after the project completion date. Contribution recipients must include a final claim with their final report.

The final report will ask you to detail:

In the event that you do not satisfy the terms and conditions of the funding agreement, repayment of funds may be requested.

Snapshot report

Recipients are asked to complete a one-page questionnaire once a year for 3 years following the end of the project phase. The snapshot report helps us understand how your company has benefitted from participating in the CanExport SMEs program:

This information is collected for statistical purposes only. It does not factor into the evaluation of future CanExport SMEs applications.

Audits

Recipients may be subject to an audit. If your company is selected for audit, you will be notified well in advance. Audits are carried out by GAC/NRC IRAP or professional auditing firms on their behalf. You must maintain records of activities as well as receipts for all expenses related to your approved project for 5 years. If an audit identifies overpayment, it must be reimbursed.

Site visits

On occasion, a trade commissioner with Global Affairs Canada may visit companies at their place of business or at the site where approved projects and activities are taking place.

Program evaluation

Evaluating program performance is a key part of the federal government's strategy to manage for results. Recipients of the CanExport SMEs program may be asked to provide information on how their project has performed to an evaluator. Funding recipients may also be asked to respond to a questionnaire to support an evaluation of the program.

10. Contact us

If you have further questions on the program, please contact: canexportsmes@international.gc.ca.

Please contact the NRC IRAP (nrc.canexport.cnrc@nrc-cnrc.gc.ca) if you have questions about:

If you are having difficulty with our online application system or technical problems related to your account, please contact nrc.canexport-help-aide-canexport.cnrc@nrc-cnrc.gc.ca

For assistance with your company's international business development plans, please contact the Trade Commissioner Service located closest to you.

Date Modified: