Program Guidelines

The Access to Talent Program helps Canadian SMEs or start-up companies hire an experienced individual to carry out a project to achieve key milestones that support the development of a natural product or technology (Technology Readiness Levels (TRL) 4-9).

NPC defines natural products or technologies as biologically-based innovations that leverage or enhance the use of naturally-occurring molecules. NPC is looking for highly innovative products or technologies with proprietary intellectual property. The innovation must benefit people, animals and the planet, and may be applied to a range of industries, including: food production and value-added agriculture; bioproducts and sustainability; human nutrition, health and wellness; animal health and nutrition; and water and waste management. Technologies and solutions based on IT (software, hardware, AI, etc.) or mechanical solutions (drones, automation, etc.) that exclude a biological element fall outside of scope for the Programs.

This program is focused on enabling Canadian SMEs and start-ups, with up to 25 employees, to hire experienced individuals to fill essential roles to further research, development, and commercialization efforts to advance the growth of innovative natural products or technologies. Key roles include scientific and/or technical, business development, marketing, sales, finance, operations and logistics.

The candidate must spend 100% of their time on activities directly related to the execution and delivery of the stated project objectives and its key milestones within the program period.

SMEs and start-ups can hire individuals for up to 18 months to fill key positions within the organization through one of two streams:

  • Stream 1: SMEs and start-ups hiring an individual with 5-9 years experience can receive up to 40% toward the cost of the new employee’s salary to a maximum of $75,000. The applicant is required to contribute 60% of the cost over the program period.
  • Stream 2: SMEs and start-ups hiring an experienced individual with 10+ years experience, at the senior level, can receive up to 40% toward the cost of the new employee’s salary to a maximum of $150,000. The applicant is required to contribute 60% of the cost over the program period.

Funds from this program are applied to salary costs only. Any recruitment costs that may be incurred by the SME or start-up company are not eligible and will not be supported by the program.

Eligible positions include but are not limited to:

  • Product or technology development
  • Business development
  • Regulatory strategy and/or collecting necessary data for regulatory submissions
  • Product or technology scale-up
  • Marketing or sales strategy
  • Fundraising to support the growth of the product or technology

Companies interested in applying to the Program should contact NPC at [email protected].

Minimum Eligibility Requirements

  • Incorporated Canadian SME or start-up company with up to 25 employees.
  • Company has a novel natural product or technology that aligns with NPC’s definitions of natural products or technologies (See examples of previously funded projects) and must also fit within the TRL 4-9 of the Government of Canada’s established Technology Readiness Levels.
  • Potential to achieve $10MM to 15MM in annual revenue within a reasonable period for the market or sector.
  • Potential for significant economic, social, health and/or environmental benefits.
  • Technological advancement and benefits to the natural products ecosystem across Canada.
  • Technical feasibility of the project.
  • Potential for commercialization in Canada.
  • Potential spillover benefits to more than one sector.
  • Potential for improving the representation of women, visible minorities, and Indigenous peoples in the natural products ecosystem.
  • Member of Canada’s Natural Product Innovation Cluster.

Employee Eligibility Requirements

  • The candidate must be hired as a full-time employee.
  • The candidate must be a new hire and not previously a full-time employee with the company. The company can have the candidate identified at the time of application or can recruit the candidate after the application submission, but the candidate’s resume must be submitted to NPC for review and approval prior to final approval of funding.
  • The candidate must spend 100% of their time on activities directly related to the execution and delivery of the project and its key milestones within the project period and indicate this through time reporting sheets.

Funding Conditions and Reporting

  • NPC’s contribution is non-dilutive, non-repayable funding.
  • Successful applicants will receive a contract from NPC that includes the project scope, reporting requirements, and mutually agreed upon key milestones to be achieved.
  • Canadian Government stacking rules apply. There is a limit on the combined level of financial assistance from all government sources (federal, provincial, territorial, municipal) not to exceed 75% of eligible costs by SMEs and start-up companies.
  • The funding is provided through reimbursement of eligible project costs upon approval of the quarterly reports. Quarterly reports include a written and financial claim, and must contain invoices and proof of payment.
  • Successful applicants are required to pay a non-refundable project administration fee of 5% of total project costs plus GST/HST. This fee is not considered as an eligible project cost.
  • An annual report will be required during the project and for each of the five (5) years after the project ends.

Application Process

  1. Eligibility Assessment:
  • Companies interested in this Program should contact NPC at [email protected].
  • An NPC team member will follow up with the company to review the Minimum Eligibility Requirements, in addition to the scope of the potential project, the position to be filled, and the candidate.
  • Companies that meet the eligibility assessment will be invited to submit an application.
  1. Application Submission and Evaluation:
  • Applications are accepted on an ongoing basis.
  • Eligible applications will be evaluated on the following criteria: the novelty of the natural product or technology; market opportunity; business model; competitors; strength of the management team; the project to be undertaken, the position to be filled; the qualifications of the candidate; the key milestones; and the impact of the key milestones.
  • Applications will be initially reviewed by the NPC team and feedback will be provided. Companies will have the opportunity to revise the application. If the application is approved by the NPC team, it will proceed to the Commercialization Sub-Committee for final review and funding decision. The Sub-Committee is comprised of NPC Board members and an external industry expert.
  1. Notification:
  • Applicants will be informed of the progress throughout the process outlined above and will be notified of the final funding decision.
  • In the event where an application is not approved for funding, the applicant will be provided feedback on the application. The applicant can request an appeal by providing, in writing, the basis for their objection(s) with the decision within 15 days from receiving the decision from NPC.


  • All applications will be treated as confidential information. The applications will only be seen by those directly involved in the evaluation of the applications.
  • For more information, contact NPC at [email protected].