OUR GREAT MINDS

    by Lloyed Lobo

    Government Funding Opportunities In ICT Innovation

    There has never been a better time to launch a tech company in the oil and gas sector in Alberta. Alberta has a great infrastructure, access to industry, and great non-dilutive funding options to fund information and communications technology (ICT) solutions that can help oil and gas companies work more efficiently.

    However, the biggest barrier to technology adoption is the industry itself–they’re used to significant capital expenses before foreseeing a return, so many falsely assume that the same models apply to return on investments for technology adoption.

    In a 2012 study of Canadian oil and gas businesses with revenue of $100 million+ showed that 71 percent use offline tools such as spreadsheets, and only 21 percent have continuous real-time monitoring and analysis. Some of the biggest problems faced by the industry are largely in part due to lack of technology adoption.

    The ICT community needs to work more closely with the oil and gas industry to understand their challenges and come up with innovative solutions for improvement. While there’s a common perception that it takes a lot of capital to solve oil and gas problems, the emergence of cloud technologies as well as the availability of government funding dramatically reduces the time, effort, and capital to build and deploy such solutions.

    Here are some government funding opportunities and programs that can benefit new companies:

    Scientific Research and Experimental Development (SR&ED) Tax Credits–each year the Canadian government provides more than $3.6 billion to over 23,000 companies under the SR&ED tax credit program to encourage businesses of all sizes, particularly small to medium and start-up businesses, to develop new or improve existing products, processes, principles, methodologies, or materials. Eligible businesses can recover upwards of 60 percent of eligible expenditures.

    Unlike SR&ED tax credits, the Industrial Research Assistance Program (IRAP) funds innovative projects before they begin. Companies still have to contribute a percentage of the overall project cost (typically 50 percent but can be as low as 20 percent), and IRAP funding covers the remainder.

    TECTERRA works with Canadian small and medium businesses to fund geomatics-based projects, from research to commercialization to hiring.

    Alberta Innovates works as a research and competitive resource for Alberta. Under the Technology Futures umbrella, companies can apply for vouchers for market assessment, industry commercialization, as well as to hire R&D and business talent.

    With these government funding opportunities coupled with industry expertise and support available, I hope to see a wave of ICT innovations built for the opportunities that lie in our backyard.

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