Feds launch new ag research, commercialization fund

The federal government has budgeted $50 million for a new funding program meant to support development and commercialization of new products and processes in the agriculture sector.

Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz and Quebec MP Jacques Gourde on Thursday launched the Agricultural Innovation Program (AIP) at separate events in Regina and St-Hyacinthe, Que., respectively.

The AIP, divided into separate "knowledge creation and transfer" and "commercialization" funding streams, is expected to provide grants and loans for "industry-led science and technology projects that bridge the gap between ideas and discoveries, and products in the marketplace."

Making such products, technologies, processes and services commercially available is expected to help the Canadian ag sector increase employment and revenues and reduce production costs, the government said.

Although it will be a national program, AIP is expected to support local-level initiatives to help address "specific pre-commercialization issues or opportunities," the government said.

"The investment will help leverage private sector resources, which are key to ensuring prosperity and competitiveness of our agriculture sector."

The program is scheduled to run until the end of March 2013.

The AIP’s Knowledge Creation and Transfer stream is meant to provide agri-entrepreneurs, firms and organizations "greater access to government, university and other resources required to support successful transformation of innovative ideas into viable business ventures."

That stream splits again into "innovation strategy development," funding activities that facilitate national value chain development such as consultations, market research, business planning, communications, workshops, administration and co-ordination services; and "applied science, technology development and piloting projects," funding activities that "foster collaboration between the private sector and/or academic labs" for the "successful transformation of innovative ideas and prototypes into new technologies."

The Knowledge Creation and Transfer stream will offer "non-repayable" grants for such work.

The Commercialization stream, meanwhile, is to back for-profit companies, co-operatives and organizations with "repayable" funding for projects that commercialize and/or adopt innovative agricultural, agri-food or agri-based products, technologies, processes and services; set up, expand or modernize a facility to do so; and/or create marketing opportunities accordingly.

"Vital"

Commodity groups on Thursday hailed the AIP’s launch, among them the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association making specific note of the Knowledge Creation and Transfer funding stream.

"Applied research is vital to the industry’s competitiveness through developing more efficient and environmentally sound production practices, and ensuring consumer confidence through food safety and beef quality," CCA president Travis Toews said in a separate release.

The AIP’s Knowledge Creation and Transfer stream, he said, is expected to help Canada’s Beef Cattle Research Council to develop its research results into "solutions and opportunities for industry."

"Programs like (AIP) will ensure that government and farmers continue to work together to remain responsive to the needs of Canadian agriculture, and competitive on the world stage," Chicken Farmers of Canada president David Fuller said Thursday, "as we have shown ourselves to be in our evolving on-farm food safety programs, as well as within our commitment to research and animal care."

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