How it Works

A. How Market Readiness Works
B. Market Readiness Customer Creation Program (MRCC)
C. Market Readiness Company Building Program (MRCB)
D. Eligibility Criteria
E. Eligible Use of Funds
F. Timelines and Decision-Making Process
G. Flow of Funds
H. Progress Reporting Requirements
I. How to Apply

J. Application Documents

Update: Market Readiness Customer Creation (MRCC) and Market Readiness Company Building (MRCB), effective April 2, 2016

  • The allowable in-kind contribution amount for MRCC is decreasing from 50% to 0%. The company MUST match the OCE contribution with 100 per cent cash from a non-governmental source.
  • The MRCC equity threshold remains the same at $500,000.
  • The MRCB equity threshold is increasing from $725,000 to $1 million. Companies that have received a minimum of $250,000 and maximum of $1 million in equity from arm’s-length, third-party, non-governmental sources are eligible to apply for MRCB.
  • The previous revenue threshold for both MRCC and MRCB is no longer applicable, as MR companies no longer have revenue thresholds. There is no limit to the amount of revenue a company may have earned prior to applying to MR programs. Only the equity thresholds apply.

A. How Market Readiness Works

Through the Market Readiness Program, Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE) invests directly in companies to further their early-stage commercialization and support their growth into a scalable business. The program supports companies in both the Customer Creation and Company Building stages of the Customer Development Model, as defined by Lean Start-up principles. The OCE investment de-risks other investment opportunities and helps the company attract the private investment and other funding it needs to grow. 

The Market Readiness Program is designed for academic spin-off companies created for the purpose of commercializing IP developed from research conducted in an Ontario-based academic institution (university, college and/or research hospital), or companies that are based at and actively engaged with, for a minimum of four months, an OCE-supported Campus-Linked Accelerator (CLA). As CLAs have been designed to help build company capacity and promote the success of youth-led entrepreneurship, companies that are eligible for the Market Readiness Program through their connection to a CLA MUST be founded by and/or have a member of the management team who is a current student and/or recent graduate (within five years) of a post-secondary institution. 

In order to be considered for the Market Readiness Program, the company’s core product or service MUST be based on a technology or innovation that gives the company its competitive advantage. The company is expected to have a preliminary product whose technology and market have been initially validated, ideally with a customer.

Companies supported through the Market Readiness Program MUST have been incorporated for fewer than three years when applying for the Customer Creation stage and fewer than five years when applying for the Company Building stage. Companies MUST not exceed OCE’s limits for arm’s-length third-party investment ($500,000 at the Market Readiness Customer Creation stage, and $1,000,000 at the Market Readiness Company Building stage).

The Market Readiness stages (MRCC/MRCB) relate to the company’s stage of development, not the amount of funds sought/required to advance the company's development.

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B. Market Readiness Customer Creation Program (MRCC)

At this stage, the company has completed preliminary validation of its technology and the market and is dedicating resources to creating user demand and channeling it into sales. Having achieved validation with initial customer(s), the company is shifting its efforts towards increasing demand and growing its customer base. At the end of the Customer Creation stage, the company should be able to demonstrate a repeatable sales process.

  • Applications to the MRCC program MUST outline all activities, timelines and costs required to reach this goal, even if they extend beyond the scope of the OCE investment being requested. Companies MUST use MRCC funds to achieve significant milestones against this goal over a period of up to 12 months.    
  • OCE investments at the Customer Creation stage are $125,000. The company MUST match the OCE investment 1:1, with 100% of the match being in cash. The cash match may come from any non-governmental source.  
  • If the applicant already has third-party investors, OCE matches third-party investors or market terms when they are arm's length and exist. Otherwise OCE's standard terms may issue the following security: convertible note (template only).
  • Successful applicants MUST also execute OCE’s standard funding agreement within 30 days of the award notification. A copy of the funding agreement can be downloaded for your reference. Please do not fill out this form; a copy of the agreement will be generated through our online management system and sent to you upon approval of your project. 
  • Funding will be released in tranches of up to 45 per cent, with a 10 percent holdback. Progress reporting against milestones is required in order to release funds after the initial tranche.   

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C. Market Readiness Company Building Program (MRCB)

A company enters this phase once it has demonstrated a scalable, repeatable business model with a well-developed business plan and robust customer pipeline/process. At this point, the company has begun shifting from “start-up mode” to developing the processes and management required to become a sustainable company. 

  • OCE’s $250,000 investment at the Company Building stage will be critical to satisfying early customer demand, scaling the business to drive new customer demand and attracting larger follow-on investment to support business sustainability (Series A, B, etc.).
  • Applications to the MRCB program MUST outline all activities, timelines and costs that are required to reach this goal, even if beyond the scope of the OCE investment requested.
    Companies MUST use MRCB funds to achieve significant milestones against this goal over a period of up to 12 months.
  • The company MUST fully match the OCE investment at a minimum rate of 1:1 in cash, from arm’s-length third-party accredited investors. 
  • If the applicant already has third-party investors, OCE matches third-party investors or market terms when they are arm's length and exist. Otherwise OCE's standard terms may issue the following security: convertible note (template only). In cases where third-party investors are establishing investment terms, OCE will consider investing on the same “market” terms. The company MUST demonstrate that the matching cash is in-hand or secured, or have verifiable engagement with co-investors, prior to project approval.  

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D. Eligibility Criteria

  • The company’s core product or service MUST be a technology or innovation that gives the company its competitive advantage. (Please note: Because of this program requirement, not all companies that have been eligible for other OCE programs, including the SmartStart Seed Fund, will be eligible for the Market Readiness Commercialization program).
  • Total market for the opportunity MUST be in excess of $50 million. Priority will be given to opportunities with early customer traction, demonstrated market/customer pull, fast growth, high potential revenues, global exports, sustainable ongoing revenues and profitability, potential for further innovation/diversification, and likelihood of maintaining substantial economic activity (e.g., jobs, supporting industrial infrastructure) in Ontario.
  • Companies MUST be either (1) an academic spin-off created for the purpose of commercializing IP developed from research conducted in an Ontario-based academic institution (university, college and/or research hospital); or (2) based at and actively engaged with, for a minimum of four months, an OCE-supported Campus-Linked Accelerator (CLA).
    • For the purpose of the Market Readiness program, “actively engaged with an OCE-supported CLA” means that the company is actively utilizing the services and resources of the CLA, such as mentorship, training, etc. OCE will validate the relationship with the CLA prior to moving any application to the External Review Panel (ERP) for assessment.
    • For companies whose eligibility for the Market Readiness Program is contingent on their engagement with a CLA, the company MUST be founded by and/or have a member of the management team who is a current student and/or recent graduate (within five years) of a post-secondary institution.
  • Companies MUST have been incorporated for fewer than three years when applying for the Customer Creation stage and fewer than five years when applying for the Company Building stage.
  • The company must be at the post-Validation stage, according to Lean Start-up principles. Validation is defined as the scientific, technical and commercial merit and feasibility of a product or service are determined.
  • Previous arm’s-length, third-party investment may not exceed:
    • $500,000 - MRCC
    • $1 million - MRCB
  • The Market Readiness stages (MRCC/MRCB) relate to the company's stage of development, not the amount of funds sought/required to advance the company's development.
    • Please note: Companies do not need to be a recipient of the MRCC to be eligible for an MRCB award.
  • A company may not receive more than one MRCC and one MRCB investment; recipients of an MRCB award cannot subsequently apply for an MRCC award.
  • Companies that have previously received $375,000 or more in OCE Market Readiness funding are ineligible to apply to the Market Readiness Program.
    • Companies that have been previously invested in by OCE through its MR2 program are ineligible for MRCC funding.
    • Companies that have received investment through OCE's MR3 program are ineligible for MRCB funding.

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E. Eligible Use of Funds

Refer to the Eligible Expenditures document for full details. 

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F. Timelines and Decision-Making Process

Applications are accepted on a continuous basis and are typically reviewed every six to eight weeks. An OCE Business Development Manager MUST initiate the application process. Prior to initiating the application, the Business Development Manager will work closely with a member of OCE’s Commercialization Team to assess the company, the opportunity for program eligibility, and the potential fit with OCE's investment portfolio. 

  • Only companies deemed appropriate for the program, both from the standpoint of eligibility and fit with OCE's investment portfolio, will be invited to initiate an application.    
  • For MRCC: This sample application template is for informational purposes only. Applications are only accepted through OCE’s online system, where full application requirements are listed.  
  • For MRCB: Please refer to the Program Goals and Guiding Questions. Applications are only accepted through OCE’s online system where full application requirements are listed.
  • All Market Readiness applications are evaluated by an External Review Panel (ERP), which is comprised of independent subject matter and business experts. Applicants are expected to both submit an online application and to present to the ERP during a panel review meeting. ERP makes funding recommendations to OCE based on its assessment of the application and presentation. The final funding decision rests with OCE, through its Internal Review Panel (IRP), which is comprised of senior OCE staff.
  • Market Readiness Company Building applications undergo an early-stage due diligence process, which MUST be accepted by the IRP, prior to moving to ERP review. In addition to confirming program eligibility, the IRP also confirms the Applicant's fit with the program, including the company's suitability to OCE’s investment philosophy and current portfolio.  

Market Readiness is a discretionary, non-entitlement program with limited funding. All eligible applications are assessed on their merit and undergo a review process where the applications are assessed against program objectives and assessment criteria. Companies that have over $100,000 in active funding commitments by OCE MUST complete the terms of those commitments (including all final reporting) before OCE will consider other applications for funding. This excludes TalentEdge internships and fellowships.

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G. Flow of Funds

Market Readiness Customer Creation (MRCC):

  • Upon receipt of the company’s electronic fund transfer (EFT) information and completed convertible debenture, OCE will release a payment equal to 45 per cent of the OCE investment. 
  • Upon receipt and approval of the interim progress report, OCE will release the second tranche of 45 per cent of the OCE investment.
  • The holdback of 10 per cent of the OCE investment will be released upon receipt and approval of the final progress and financial reports, and attestation from the company regarding the use of funds.

Market Readiness Company Building (MRCB):

  • Upon receipt of the company’s electronic fund transfer (EFT) information and completed convertible debenture, OCE will release the full amount of the OCE investment. 

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H. Progress Reporting Requirements

Interim Progress Report (MRCC only):

An interim report, including progress and financials, will be required at approximately the six month point. The company will receive notification and a link from OCE’s AccessOCE system to submit the report. The report MUST be received and approved by OCE prior to the release of the second funding tranche.

Final Progress Report:

Forty-five days prior to the scheduled completion of the OCE-funded milestones and activities, the company will receive a notification from OCE’s AccessOCE system with a link to the final reporting documentation. If an extension is required, it MUST be requested from your OCE Business Development Manager at this time. Final reporting documentation MUST be received by OCE within 30 days of completing the agreed upon OCE-funded milestones and activities in order to maintain good financial standing with OCE.

Metrics Reporting:

If OCE-funded milestones and activities continue past a fiscal year end (March 31), the company will be required to complete an annual metrics survey each April, for the OCE-funded milestones and activities that have been completed since the previous March 31. This annual report is mandatory for OCE to fulfill its contract with the provincial and federal governments. Required metrics reports MUST be submitted for the company to maintain good financial standing with OCE.

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I. How to Apply

Applications MUST be initiated by a Business Development Manager

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J. Application Documents

For investment-related inquiries, including assistance with application initiation and development, please contact a Business Development Manager. 

For general inquiries about the online application system and application form, please contact the Application Support Team at 416-861-1092, ext. 2400 or application-support@oce.zendesk.com.

For inquiries specifically related to contracting and funding disbursements, please contact Sam Saad, Program Manager at 416-861-1092, ext. 1097 or sam.saad@oce-ontario.org.