Make Your FRIST Customer a Government Contract:
The Canadian Innovation Commercialisation Program Explained
Imagine if the Canadian government was your very first customer for your innovative product or service…what would that mean for your future? Money to fund production, customer feedback, proof of commercial success, which would all help to gain you more orders and more success down the road. Well, a unique Government procurement opportunity is coming soon so read on to find out what you need to know!
Lead to Win Women hosted their January 26th expert speaker series at the new OCRI offices at 80 Aberdeen in Little Italy where Peter Bown gave an overview of the Canadian Innovation Commercialisation Program at PWGSC. CICP is a pilot program of the Federal Government whose objectives, Peter explained, are to help “evaluate new products or services, bridge the pre-commercialization gap for Canadian innovators, support Canadian business and improve Government operations.”
The program itself is a $40M venture by the Federal Government that calls for a two-year pilot program offering three different opportunities for Canadian companies to pitch their innovative offerings.
In the first two launches, CICP drew more than 300 proposals. Your company, your plan, your team and your offering are evaluated closely on several areas and every proposal is ranked by a point system. Companies are ranked in order and procurement contracts are issued down the line until the money runs out. After contracts are issued, your offering is matched with government departments that could use your product or service. They are more likely to follow through on the purchase because the technology has been pre-qualified, taking care of one of the most time consuming stages of a normal procurement process.
CICP will create a Call for Proposals, posted on the MERX website likely this winter, for innovative products or services. This proposal stage is generally open for 6-8 weeks.
The Basic Rules
- Your product must be at least 80% Canadian content.
- You must be a Canadian company.
- You can not have sold the product or service to anyone else.
- You must show IP ownership or rights.
- Your product or service must fall into one of four categories: Health, Environment, Safety and Security or Enabling Technologies.
- Your offering must be an advance on current state-of-the-art products or services available today.
- You must be market-ready, but not have any sales at the time of submitting your proposal.
Each proposal is compared on its own merits, not compared to other proposals of possibly similar offerings (it is conceivable that two or more products that are very similar could be purchased through this program). Each procurement will be a maximum of $500K (taxes and shipping/handling extra), and must be able to be provided within 1 year.
Advice on your proposal:
- Follow the process carefully. Peter stresses that the Call for Proposals has been carefully designed to find out who has the best innovative product or service, not which company can write the best proposal.
- If you can provide a list of government departments – even contacts within those departments – who would be very interested in your offering, it strengthens your proposal. If you’ve spoken with these departments ahead of time – letting them know about the proposal and asking for their input, it can only help your final submission. If there are barriers to you speaking to a specific department – security reasons for example – winning a CICP proposal can help you get your product in front of that audience.
- Make sure your offering is something governments would be interested in buying. Peter discussed an example of a company that had designed an upgrade for a generator that improved efficiencies. “It was easy to sell a new generator,” explained Peter, “Parks Canada uses lots of those just to name one department. But to sell just the upgrade piece would have proven more complicated.”
- Pay close attention to your objectives and test plan that are required in the proposal. These should be very clearly described, and Peter stressed that spending time on this part of the proposal would be very valuable. “You should assess the attractiveness and feasibility of the test plan on departments and end users.”
- Clearly showing your company’s capacity for production, for implementation and follow-through is critical. Your management team, engineering team and your ability to implement are examined closely – bench strength is important!
Once the selection process is complete, CICP matches you to government departments who would likely want and need your product or service. Generally, this selection process can take up to one month or more. If you’ve got matches pre-identified, obviously this saves a lot of time at this stage. If a match can’t be made, the contract expires – so it pays well to talk to likely government purchasers before your proposal is completed.
The final stage is testing, where your end customers start using your product or service and you can start billing! Feedback from your customers will help you improve your offering, and can be used in marketing to new customers.
For more information and to be added to the CICP mailing list, visit the website buyandsell.gc.ca/innovation. You may also contact Peter Bown directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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