Best Grants for Small Businesses in Ontario


Updated: 02/28/24

Grants are an important source of funding for small businesses. Unlike loans or equity investments, grants do not have to be repaid, making them an attractive option for staying out of debt. They are offered by a variety of sources, from federal, provincial and municipal governments, to public and private organizations. Often, they support specific objectives such as innovation, job creation, environmental protection, or cultural development, and come with defined rules on how you can spend the money.

In this article, we highlight a selection of the best grants for entrepreneurs and small businesses in Ontario. Whether you’re looking to modernize your business with digital technology, expand your operations or hire more staff members, there is a grant that can help your company reach its goals.

Grants For Adopting Digital Technology

Concept of business person adopting new digital technology

Digital Modernization and Adoption Plan (DMAP)This program is part of the Digitalization Competence Centre (DCC) initiative, which aims to enhance Canada’s digital competitiveness and innovation. Eligible small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are assigned a Digital Adoption Consultant to assess their technology needs and create a digital transformation plan tailored to their business. Once companies have completed the DMAP program, they can apply for the Technology Demonstration Program, which provides support and funding to help implement the technological solutions identified in the DMAP.  

Grow Your Business Online GrantImplementing e-commerce solutions can help a company remain competitive in today’s online marketplace. This government program provides microgrants of up to $2,400 to aid businesses in their adoption of digital technologies. Part of the Canada Digital Adoption Program, the Grow Your Business Online grant helps SMEs:

  • Get online
  • Increase sales
  • Adopt security software
  • Connect with customers
  • Improve social media marketing
  • Improve user experience for online customers

Boost Your Business Technology Grant – If your for-profit business is Canadian-owned with at least $500,000 in annual revenue, then there is another grant that you can apply for through the Canada Digital Adoption Program. This grant provides eligible companies with access to a digital advisor and up to $15,000 in funding to help boost their business technology. Whether you’re looking to consolidate software, improve cybersecurity or increase workplace efficiency, the Boost Your Business Technology grant allows SMEs to:

  • Reduce overhead costs
  • Speed up transactions
  • Respond to clients more quickly
  • Manage inventory more efficiently
  • Improve supply chain logistics

02/28/24 Update
: The CDAP is no longer accepting applications for its Boost Your Business Technology grant. An announcement from Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED) stated that the grant is fully subscribed and will remain closed for the foreseeable future. Check back for future developments.

Grants For Growing Your Business

Image depicting the concept of business growth

Starter Company Plus – Ontario residents aged 18 and older who are starting, buying or expanding a business can receive training, mentoring and a grant of up to $5,000 through Starter Company Plus. Candidates can apply via their local Small Business Enterprise Centre. Successful applicants will receive one-on-one guidance from a Small Business Enterprise Centre Advisor and participate in business workshops, seminars and networking events. 

Ontario Labour Market Partnerships – This program supports partnerships among employers, employer/employee associations, and community organizations working together to address and respond to local labour market issues and needs. It helps these groups plan and implement economic development strategies, skills training, human resource solutions, and labour force adjustments. The grant can help businesses grow by enabling them to collaborate with other partners, access labour market information, and plan for their future needs.

Southwestern Ontario Development Fund – Businesses located in Southern Ontario that are looking to expand operations or attract new business to the community may be eligible for a grant from this government development fund. It provides grants and loans to eligible projects that focus on innovation, productivity, skills development and environmental sustainability. The fund also helps attract private sector investment and partnerships to the region. Businesses located in Eastern Ontario can access the Eastern Ontario Development Fund

INVEST North ProgramThe aim of this program is to facilitate the development of northern regions in Canada. Through multiple streams (Innovation, Launch, Locate and Grow), it provides funding and incentives for businesses, communities and individuals who want to start or expand projects that contribute to the economic, social and environmental well-being of the North. The program also helps improve the infrastructure, services and connectivity of northern communities.

Grants For Exporting Goods and Services

Business people planning international expansion for their Canadian small business

CanExport SMEs – Breaking into international markets can be a complex and expensive endeavour. The CanExport SMEs program helps ease the financial burden for Canadian businesses that want to sell their products or services internationally. The program provides funding for different kinds of activities that can help businesses reach new customers and markets, such as:

  •  Gathering market intelligence (custom research, reports and studies)
  •  Applying for intellectual property protection in international markets
  •  Applying for certification in international markets
  •  Seeking expert legal and business advice
  •  Search Engine Optimization
  •  Translating, adapting or creating marketing materials
  •  Attending trade shows, networking functions, meetings or conferences

Companies must employ fewer than 500 full-time employees and have $100,000 to $100 million in declared revenue in Canada during the past fiscal year.

Export Development Stream – Part of the Creative Export Canada Program, the Export Development Stream provides funding for Canadian creative industries that want to grow their international presence. It helps new and early-stage exporters build their capacity and reach new markets, as well as assisting experienced exporters in exploring new opportunities and networks. 

Grants for Hiring

New employee being hired with a handshake

Venture for Canada – Hire an Intern – This program helps Canadian employers hire interns who are recent graduates or current students of post-secondary institutions. The grant covers up to 70% of the intern’s salary, up to a maximum of $7,000 per intern. Interns are exposed to entrepreneurial and work-readiness training to provide a smooth transition into real-world employment.

Canada-Ontario Job Grant – Delivered by the government of Ontario, this grant helps employers invest in their workforce by providing financial support for training costs. The program covers up to $10,000 per person for training delivered by an approved third-party trainer. 

Youth Employment Program – Businesses hiring young graduates in the fields of science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and social sciences could be eligible for the Youth Employment Program. Offered by the National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC IRAP), this grant encourages businesses to hire graduates by funding a portion of their salaries. It aims to create employment opportunities for young Canadians, enhance their skills and experience, and foster innovation and growth in the Canadian economy.

Grants for Innovators

Businessman holding lightbulb depicting concept of innovation in business

Regional Development Program: Advanced Manufacturing and Innovation Competitiveness Stream – This program supports advanced manufacturing companies in Ontario with funding for capital equipment, technology adoption and skills development. It focuses on projects that align with regional priorities and have a positive impact on the local economy and communities.

Regional Innovation Centres – RICs are located throughout Ontario and are a great resource for helping entrepreneurs and small businesses succeed in international markets. They provide access to expert advice and training, market intelligence, resource connections and funding. Programs vary by RIC, so be sure to check with your local centre to learn more about the support and funding opportunities that they offer.  

Innovative Solutions Canada – This federal program supports Canadian small businesses and innovators to develop novel solutions for government challenges. It funds the early stages of innovation, from proof of feasibility to prototype development. The program also helps innovators commercialize their solutions by becoming the first buyer of their products or services.

Proof-of-Concept Program – Offered by Natural Products Canada, this funding opportunity helps Canadian SMEs, start-ups and academic research institutes that are developing innovative natural products or technologies. The program supports projects that demonstrate the commercial feasibility of products that benefit people, animals or the planet in various sectors. It covers up to 40% of the project costs, with a maximum of $250,000.

Canadian International Innovation Program (CIIP) – This program is run by the Trade Commissioner Service and the NRC IRAP. It helps Canadian SMEs find and work with foreign partners on research and development projects. Eligible projects should have the potential to create new or improved products, services, or processes that can be sold in the global market. The program covers five countries: Brazil, China, Israel, India and South Korea.

Final Thoughts

These are just some of the grants that you can apply for as an entrepreneur or small business owner in Ontario. If you didn’t find one that’s right for your business, don’t worry, there are a huge number of different grants available depending on your industry sector, location, stage of development and purpose of funding. 

Ontario Business Grants and Mentor Works are both great resources for finding and accessing grant information and funding opportunities. You can also visit your local Small Business Enterprise Centre for one-on-one support and guidance.