The Best Sources for Small Business Grants in Nova Scotia

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Small business grants are available to small business owners in Nova Scotia through a number of sources, including the federal and provincial governments, regional development agencies, non-profits, and other provincial organizations.

If you’re looking for non-repayable small funding for your business, wading through myriad grant options can be time consuming and intimidating—not to mention confusing. Many grants are designed to help certain business types, such as Indigenous-owned businesses, or support specific project goals like improving energy efficiency or accessibility. Understanding the various grant options will help you narrow down your search so you can focus on preparing the applications that are the most likely to succeed.

In this guide, we’ll take a closer look at over 25 sources of small business grants in Nova Scotia. We’ve organized these grant options into four categories based on who is offering the funding:

  • Small business grants from the Government of Canada
  • Grants from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency
  • Small business grants from the Government of Nova Scotia
  • Other sources of small business grants in Nova Scotia

Let’s dive right in.

Small Business Grants from the Government of Canada

The Government of Canada offers a number of small business grants to businesses located anywhere in Canada, including Nova Scotia. Businesses do not need to be based in Nova Scotia to access these grants, and all grant funding is non-repayable. Application criteria varies based on the grant program you are applying for.

Here are four examples of federal small business grants in Nova Scotia:

1. Canadian International Innovation Program (CIIP)

Best For:
  • Businesses pursuing international research and development with foreign partners in Brazil, China, India, Israel, and South Korea

The Canadian International Innovation Program (CIIP) offers funding for businesses that are looking to research and develop programs between Canadian companies and foreign partners, with the goal of creating a commercial product or service. This grant covers a percentage of the costs associated with the developed program. Funding can be used to cover up to 50% of eligible costs, up to a maximum of $600,000.

2. Strategic Innovation Fund

Best For:
  • For-profit businesses
  • Non-profit organizations

The Strategic Innovation Fund provides small businesses and non-profit organizations with non-repayable grant funding to support a variety of different projects aimed at growing the economy, such as research and development, business expansion, and private/public sector collaboration. Funding is available up to 50% of the costs for eligible activities.

3. Atlantic Fisheries Fund

Best For:
  • Businesses in the fish and seafood sector

The Atlantic Fisheries Fund is funded jointly by the federal government and the government of Nova Scotia. This fund is intended to help the fish and seafood sector in Atlantic Canada transition to meet the growing demand for seafood globally, with a focus on three areas:

  • Innovation, such as developing new products and technologies for harvesting, aquaculture, and processing
  • Infrastructure, such as using new technologies or processes to improve sustainability
  • Science partnerships, such as collaborating with universities and research institutions to improve knowledge and understanding

4. Black Entrepreneurship Loan Fund

Best For:
  • Black-owned businesses and entrepreneurs

The Black Entrepreneurship Loan Fund is a partnership between the Government of Canada, Black-led business organizations, the Business Development Bank of Canada, and other financial institutions. This fund provides loans up to $250,000 to Black business owners and entrepreneurs across the country, including Nova Scotia. Applicants can submit their applications through the Federation of African Canadian Economics (FACE).

The federal government also offers sector- and purpose- specific grants to small businesses in Nova Scotia and across the country. Check out this complete list of federal small business grants for more information.

Small Business Grants from Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA)

The Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency is a federal regional development agency that supports economic growth in Atlantic Canada in three ways:

  1. By helping businesses of all sizes become more competitive, innovative, and productive
  2. By working with diverse communities to develop local economies
  3. By upholding and promoting the strength of Atlantic Canada, including Nova Scotia

The ACOA offers a number of small business grants in Nova Scotia, with programs for non-profit organizations, established businesses, and specific projects and activities. Here are 10 of the most popular ACOA grant programs:

1. Regional Economic Growth through Innovation (REGI)

Best For:
  • Non-profits
  • Strategic clusters and groups
  • Accelerators and incubators
  • Under-represented groups

The Regional Economic Growth through Innovation (REGI) offers grant funding through the Regional Innovation Ecosystems program. This program is for non-profit organizations such as strategic clusters and groups, accelerators and incubators, and other innovation-oriented organizations that support businesses at every stage of development.

No fixed funding amount is specified—grant amounts depend on the specific project in question. For-profit businesses can also access REGI funding, but funding will be in the form of a repayable loan.

2. Atlantic Innovation Fund (AIF)

Best For:
  • Non-profits
  • Universities and colleges
  • Non-government research institutions
  • Provincial Crown corporations operating in Atlantic Canada

The Atlantic Innovation Fund (AIF) supports businesses, co-operatives, colleges, universities, and research institutions in two ways:

  • To create and market new products and services that meet demands and global quality standards
  • To adapt new technology to meet business needs or respond to market opportunities

To qualify for AIF funding, a project must be large-scale and must include a research and development element with a strong possibility for commercialization.

Non-profit organizations can receive non-repayable grant funding up to 80% of total eligible costs for projects. Private-sector-led projects can also receive funding, but it will be conditionally repayable funding up to 75% of total eligible costs. Eligible costs could include wages, salaries, capital costs and other operating expenses directly related to the project.

3. Jobs and Growth Fund

Best For:
  • Non-profit organizations and community economic development partners
  • Indigenous-led organizations

The Jobs and Growth Fund is a COVID-19 support program that provides grants and loans to businesses and organizations in order to help create jobs and position local economies for long-term growth. Eligible not-for-profit organizations could receive non-repayable contributions for up to 90 percent of eligible costs. Eligible for-profit businesses can also receive funding in the form of interest-free, repayable loans covering up to 50 percent of eligible costs.

4. Tourism Relief Fund

Best For:
  • Businesses
  • Non-profit organizations, such as tourism associations
  • Band councils or other Indigenous organizations and cooperatives

The Tourism Relief Fund (TRF) is another COVID-19 support program designed to help “position Canada as a destination of choice as domestic and international travel rebounds”. The program aims to help tourism businesses create new or enhance existing experiences and products to attract more local and domestic visitors.

Contributions to businesses will be either non-repayable contributions up to $100,000 for up to 50% of eligible costs, or fully repayable contributions up to $500,000 for up to 75% of eligible costs. Non-profits and Indigenous entities will be eligible for non-repayable grant contributions up to $500,000.

5. Aerospace Regional Recovery Initiative (ARRI)

Best For:
  • Non-profit organizations providing services to SMEs in the aerospace industry
  • Indigenous businesses and organizations providing services to SMEs in the aerospace industry

The Aerospace Regional Recovery Initiative (ARRI) supports small and medium-sized businesses in three objectives:

  • To green their operations and adopt environmentally sustainable practices
  • To improve productivity
  • To strengthen commercialization while furthering integration into regional and global supply chains

Grant amounts depend on the project. Priority will be given to projects that contribute to:

  • The transition toward greener products and operations or environmentally sustainable practices
  • Generating economic benefits and promoting business development while improving the resilience and international competitiveness of the aerospace sector
  • Improving diversity and inclusion to address barriers faced by certain groups
  • Supporting digital adoption and enhanced cybersecurity

6. Innovative Communities Fund

Best For:
  • Non-commercial and non-profit organizations
  • Industry or sector associations
  • Educational institutions
  • Municipalities and their agencies
  • Co-operatives and local development associations
  • Indigenous bands and Indigenous-controlled non-profit entities

The Innovative Communities Fund (ICF) works with communities to find opportunities for growth by investing in initiatives that lead to long-term employment and a stronger local economy. ICF funding is non-repayable, and funding amounts are based on the level of funding each project needs to proceed.

7. Economic Development Initiative (EDI)

Best For:
  • Non-profit organizations that serve Acadian or francophone communities

The Economic Development Initiative (EDI) seeks to help Acadian and francophone communities in Atlantic Canada grow their economy by providing financial support to non-profit organizations that service official language minority communities (OLMCs).

8. Canada Coal Transition Initiative (CCTI)

Best For:
  • Communities in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia

The Canada Coal Transition Initiative (CCTI) helps businesses in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia transition away from coal by investing in sustainable infrastructure, supporting skills development, and economic diversification activities.

9. Advanced Manufacturing Technology Assessments

Best For:
  • Incorporated Atlantic Canadian manufacturers

Advanced Manufacturing Technology Assessments provide manufacturers who are seeking innovative ways to increase their efficiency, productivity, and competitiveness with up to 75% of eligible costs, to a maximum funding amount of $50,000.

10. Innovation Mobilization Program

Best For:
  • Research institutions that are members of Springboard Atlantic
  • Businesses that collaborate with Springboard Atlantic network members

The Innovation Mobilization Program provides $20,000 in grants and loans to members of Springboard Atlantic (a member-based organization supported by the ACOA), as well as businesses that collaborate with Springboard Atlantic members. This program is designed to grow Atlantic Canada’s innovation economy through collaboration among post-secondary institutions and industry.

Small Business Grants from the Government of Nova Scotia

The provincial government offers a variety of small business grants in Nova Scotia. Here are 6 of the most popular:

1. Workplace Education Initiative

Best For:
  • Established businesses

The Workplace Education Initiative grant promotes learning at work and supports the development of a skilled, competitive workforce by increasing workplace essential skills. Funding is available for organizational needs assessments, educational needs assessments, instructor costs associated with course development and delivery, and to support tutoring for registered Nova Scotia apprentices. Funding amounts are not fixed and are assessed based on each application and project.

2. Business ACCESS-Ability Grant Program

Best For:
  • Established businesses
  • Educational institutions
  • Organizations that deliver training and educational services targeted at the business community

The Business ACCESS-Ability Grant Program provides businesses looking to make accessibility-related improvements for staff or customers with funding up to ⅔ of eligible expenses, to a maximum of $100,000 per year per applicant.

3. Agriculture Business Advancer Program

Best For:
  • Businesses registered in the correct income category under the Farm Registration Act

The Agriculture Business Advancer Program grant provides agriculture businesses with up to 30% funding assistance to a maximum of $300,000 to help support the adoption of new technologies, processes, or specialized equipment for the purpose of business growth.

4. Self Employment (SE) Program

Best For:
  • Individuals seeking to start a new business

The Self Employment (SE) Program provides non-repayable grants and entrepreneurial support to eligible, unemployed Nova Scotians who are starting their own business.

5. Workplace Innovation and Productivity Skills Incentive

Best For:
  • Employers and industry associations looking to train full-time employees

The Workplace Innovation and Productivity Skills Incentive is a grant that supplements employer contributions to help train full-time staff permanently located in Nova Scotia so they can:

  • Improve productivity and profitability
  • Increase innovation
  • Adapt to new technology, machinery and equipment, or work processes
  • Increase inter-provincial and international competitiveness
  • Foster workplace diversity

The funding amount depends on the size of your business, up to a maximum of $100,000.

Other Small Business Grants in Nova Scotia

Small business grants are available from a number of non-government sources in Nova Scotia, including non-profit organizations, councils, accelerators, and more. Here are some of the most popular:

1. Cape Breton Centre for Craft & Design

Best For:
  • Craft producers and artists on Cape Breton Island

The Cape Breton Centre for Craft & Design offers funding to craft producers and artists to help start or grow businesses on Unama’ki-Cape Breton Island.

Three streams of support are available:

  1. Website and e-commerce funding to help cover the fees associated with developing a new website or upgrading an existing website
  2. Branding and storytelling funding to help artists develop their brand to meet their current market demands
  3. Craft business consultancy funding to partially cover the cost of businesses that hire a consultant to help them establish, maintain, or grow their business

Programs offer non-repayable funding up to 75% of eligible costs, to a maximum amount of $2,000 or $5,000 depending on the program

2. Divert Nova Scotia

Best For:
  • Individual businesses
  • Business associations
  • Industry groups
  • Industry-led partnerships
  • Universities and colleges
  • Agencies
  • Municipalities

Divert Nova Scotia is a non-profit organization focused on recycling culture. Their main focus is on consumer-facing initiatives, but they also offer grant programs for businesses, including:

  • Value-Added Manufacturing Grants: This initiative funds projects designed to commercialize new technology, products, or services that focus on innovation. Divert Nova Scotia provides a maximum contribution of up to 50% of the total eligible expenses for the proposed project. The form the funding takes, whether a loan, forgivable loan, or non-repayable contribution, will depend on the strategic value of the project. Applicants must hold the necessary licenses, leases, and permits, where applicable, and confirm a 20% equity position in the project to qualify.
  • Research and Development Grants are available for initiatives that support Nova Scotia’s Solid Waste-Resource Management Strategy. Funding will be provided for approved projects that investigate, design and develop innovation in materials or products that incorporate solid waste-resources, technologies that will facilitate the separation and recovery of solid waste-resources, enhanced market opportunities for solid waste-resources and/or recycled materials, and increased efficiency within the current Nova Scotian solid waste system. A maximum non-repayable contribution of $50,000 per project is available to cover up to 50% of eligible costs.

3. Nova Scotia Seafood Accelerator Program

Best For:
  • Seafood businesses

The Nova Scotia Seafood Accelerator Program, facilitated by Perennia Food and Agriculture Inc., is available till March 31, 2023, and includes multiple grant options with different funding amounts and eligibility requirements:

  • The Market Access Food Safety Program provides up to $15,000 in funding to help companies meet specific food safety requirements or overcome obstacles that are preventing them from entering a new market, as well as in keeping markets open when requirements change.
  • The Technical Obstacles grant assists companies that offer seafood value-added products already in the marketplace, or those ready to go to market, with a technical issue that is keeping or prohibiting a product from entering a new market or limiting its current market success.
  • The New Product Creator grant supports the development of new seafood value-added products through activities such as market validation, prototype development, and scale-up support, with the intent of having the product successfully reach the intended market. No fixed funding amount is specified—grant amounts depend on the specific project in question.

4. Arts NS

Best For:
  • Artists and creative businesses
  • Non-profit organizations registered in Nova Scotia employing professional artists for a project
  • Ad-hoc groups of three or more professional artists (majority living in Nova Scotia) who are creating a new work together

Arts NS offers numerous funding and grant options for artists and creative businesses and organizations, including:

  • Arts Equity Funding Initiative: This program supports emerging and established professional artists from designated communities who have historically faced barriers to accessing funding support. Funding up to $15,000 is available.
  • Operating Assistance to Arts Organizations: This program aims to enhance stability within established arts organizations that develop and sustain Nova Scotia’s arts community. Funding up to $50,000 is available.
  • Access Support – Supplement: Access Support provides supplemental funding to an existing Arts NS project grant that is funding individual applicants who self-identify as Deaf, having disabilities or living with mental illness, as well as groups and organizations who want to increase the accessibility to their presentation/production for audience and/or participants. Funding up to $2,500 is available.
  • Grants to Organizations and Groups: Up to $15,000 in funding is available to help professional arts organizations create and present artistic work, as well as strengthen their artistic and administrative capacity.
  • Grants to Individuals: Up to $15,000 in funding is available to help professional, practicing artists in the creation and dissemination of their own work.
  • Mi’kmaq Arts Program supports the development and continuation of Mi’kmaq art forms in the territory of Mi’kma’ki (Nova Scotia). Up to $15,000 in funding is available.
  • Artists in Communities: This program supports organizations, groups, and individuals to develop and carry out community-based arts projects. Communities can be geographically based, based on shared interests or a shared workplace, or based on a shared culture or a shared aspect of identity. Grants up to $20,000 are available.

Arts NS also offers a number of awards with cash prizes, including the Black Artist Recognition Award, Indigenous Artist Recognition Award, Emerging Artist Recognition Award, Established Artist Recognition award, and more.

5. Community Business Development Corporations (CBDCs)

Best For:
  • Various business types

Community Business Development Corporations (CBDCs) provide financial, technical, and advisory services to entrepreneurs. The Online Presence Micro Loan, which offers $2,500 in grants and loans to small businesses looking to create or improve their online presence, is one of their most popular funding programs. They also offer social enterprise loans, first-time entrepreneur loans, and numerous other funding and support programs.

6. Ulnooweg

Best For:
  • Indigenous businesses

Ulnooweg is an organization dedicated to the success of Indigenous communities, individuals, and businesses in Atlantic Canada. Funding is provided through Ulnooweg Development Group, including the Aboriginal Business Financing Program (ABFP), which offers non-repayable business contributions to individual Aboriginal entrepreneurs and community-owned businesses.

Expenses eligible for ABDP support include:

  • Business planning
  • Establishment and operating costs
  • Business acquisitions and expansions
  • Local, domestic or export oriented marketing initiatives
  • New product or process development
  • Adding technology to improve operations and competitiveness
  • Financial services
  • Business support
  • Business-related training and mentoring services.

7. Efficiency NS

Best For:
  • All businesses looking to improve sustainability and energy efficiency

The Efficiency NS Retrofit Program offers tailored technical and financial support to help businesses reduce their electrical energy consumption and system-peak demand. Efficiency NS has over 200 local partners and is funded by supplying electricity efficiency and conservation activities to Nova Scotia Power.

Other grants are available for specific audiences and purposes, such as seafood and fisheries, agriculture, arts and culture, job creation, and innovation. Check out this detailed guide to small business grants in Nova Scotia for a complete list of available grants.

Wrapping Up

Small business funding in Nova Scotia is available from:

  1. The Government of Canada
  2. The Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency
  3. The Government of Nova Scotia
  4. Other sources, such as non-profit organizations

Each funding source offers a number of unique funding options, and each funding source and grant has different uses, application requirements, and approval criteria.

If you can’t find a grant program to suit your business or project, or you need fast funding, alternative lenders like Greenbox Capital® offer a streamlined online application and can deposit funding in as little as 24 hours. No collateral is required, making alternative lenders an ideal option for businesses that need smaller loan amounts, can’t offer collateral, have lower credit scores, or need fast funding.

Learn more about alternative funding
  1. Guide to Small Business Grants in Nova Scotia.” QuickBooks Canada Team. December 2, 2021.
Jordan Fein
Author: Jordan Fein
Contributor and expert in finance and loans, business and economics