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Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is an absurd one.
The Canada Accelerator and Incubator Program (CAIP) is a 100 million, 5-year, non-repayable contribution program aimed at establishing a critical mass of outstanding business incubators and accelerators that can develop innovative, high-growth firms, which themselves represent superior early-stage investment opportunities.
Conducted by Circum in 2016, the evaluation of CAIP focused on the first two years of operation of the program: 2014-2015 and 2015-2016. Because the evaluation took place early in the program life, the study focused on relevance and implementation of the program. The evaluation included multiple lines of evidence and complementary research methods:
The evaluation found CAIP to be relevant to the NRC and federal government mandates. It is complementary to other innovation support initiatives although potential for overlap is present. However, the limited empirical evidence on the quantitative impact of A/Is on individual firms and on the innovation ecosystem more broadly is not conclusive.
The central program delivery issue is the balance between maintaining various oversight controls with reduced administrative burden requested by recipients. While recipients express the desire for fewer controls, program representatives point to the need for oversight given that the average CAIP contribution is approximately $6 million. The evaluation found that a rebalancing in favor of less stringent claims processing could yield a net benefit without undue risk. It is also evident that NRC-IRAP required a longer than anticipated timeframe to adapt its systems and processes to the needs of CAIP. This is due largely to key differences in the delivery structure of regular NRC-IRAP programs compared to CAIP. Evidence shows that NRC-IRAP has demonstrated adaptability and improvements to delivery systems continue to be made.
Finally, the evaluation showed that NRC-IRAP was late in collecting performance measurement (PM) data for year-one. Further, once collection was implemented, data provided by recipients was incomplete. The PM outlook for year two is concerning given this reluctance of recipients to share information. NRC-IRAP should ensure that the recipients provide all the data necessary for the mandatory impact evaluation.
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