Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency
Symbol of the Government of Canada
Business Development Program
The Business Development Program (BDP) is designed to help you set up, expand or modernize your business. Focusing on small and medium-sized enterprises, the BDP provides access to capital in the form of interest-free, unsecured, repayable contributions. Not-for-profit organizations that provide support to the business community may also qualify for non-repayable assistance.
What qualifies for BDP financing?
Most business sectors are eligible except retail/wholesale, real estate, government services, and services of a personal or social nature. Both commercial and not-for-profit applicants are eligible.
Eligible activities include business studies, capital investment, training, marketing, quality assurance, and not-for-profit activities that support business in the region. Assistance is also available to help you bid for and acquire public and private procurement contracts or to develop an innovative product or service.

Overall, your project should meet the following criteria:

  • Provide economic benefit to an area or a community
  • Demonstrate need for financial assistance
  • Be economically viable.
How much assistance is available?
ACOA can provide an unsecured, interest-free loan towards the eligible costs of a new establishment, expansion, modernization or a project which improves your competitiveness. ACOA's contribution is repayable on a time schedule tailored to your circumstances. The maximum level of assistance under the program is as follows.
Costs eligible for up to 50% financing include:
  • The construction or acquisition of a building
  • machinery and equipment needed for the project
  • working capital requirements related to an establishment or expansion project
  • site improvements such as land clearing and paving required for the project
  • leasehold improvements required for the project
  • leased equipment and conditional sales contracts
  • infrastructure such as sewer and water needed for a project self-built assets
  • intangible assets such as patents, trademarks and licenses
  • start-up costs such as insurance and interest capitalized during construction
Costs eligible for up to 75% financing include:
  • Marketing: Includes the development of a marketing plan, the hiring of marketing expertise to implement the plan, and related marketing activities such as labelling, packaging, promotional materials, advertising, product demonstrations and participation at trade shows.
  • Training: Includes the development of a training plan, the hiring of training expertise to implement the plan and related activities such as training materials, seminar fees, and wages during the time that employees received off-the-job training.
  • Productivity/Quality Improvement: Includes the development of a productivity or quality improvement plan, the hiring of expertise to implement the plan, and related activities such as obtaining a recognized quality certification such as ISO, and the cost of needed technical equipment.
  • Innovation: Includes costs related to researching and developing new or improved products, services and processes such as the labour costs of expertise, materials, special equipment, testing and patents.
  • Consultant Advice: Includes the cost of hiring a qualified consultant to prepare a business plan, feasibility study, investigate licensing opportunities, conduct a venture capital search, technology transfer search or provide advice to improve your business skills.
  • Contract bidding: Includes the cost of improving your competitive ability to bid on and acquire public and private sector contracts.
  • Business proposal development: Includes the cost of turning your idea into a viable business proposal, example the completion of feasibility study, prototype development, and gathering information on markets and raw material suppliers. Maximum contribution is $10,000 for this activity.
  • Business Support: Not-for profit organizations may qualify for assistance towards activities that support the business community, entrepreneurship or economic development.

How much time does it take to process an application for assistance?

When an application for assistance is received, it is immediately assigned to an account manager for evaluation. Each application is assessed based on the project’s own merit and against the program criteria, including financial need, the economic benefits for the Atlantic region, the overall risk and the Agency’s priorities.

The time required to complete the evaluation depends on a number of factors, including some that may be beyond the control of ACOA. The following are some of the circumstances that impact the timeliness of the decision-making process:

  1. Complexity of the Project – Some projects, such as innovation or research and development, are very complex in nature and may require consultation with individuals outside of the organization. Advice from experts in a particular field may be required as part of the due diligence process and in determining the overall risk.
  2. Environmental Assessments – As an agency of the federal government, ACOA adheres to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. In compliance with this Act, the federal environmental assessment process must be applied as part of the project evaluation process. The time required for the environmental assessment depends on the nature and scope of the project and the type of assessment required (e.g. screening, comprehensive study or other). To better understand the level of assessment that will be required for your project, you may contact the account manager assigned to your project.
  3. Additional Information Requirements – While the Business Development Program application form lists the minimum information required to complete the evaluation of your project, additional information or clarification may be required from you during the due diligence process as the account manager analyses the information provided. Incomplete application forms or any delays in providing additional information may impact the time required to complete the evaluation process.

ACOA is committed to providing you with excellent service that meets your needs. We engage and involve citizens to improve and expand our service offerings, and your feedback is essential in helping us better understand your needs. Learn more about our service standards.

More Information

For more information about eligible costs, consult the following fact sheets:
- Business Start-Ups, Expansions, and Modernizations

- Developing your innovative ideas
- Improving your competitiveness

-Non-commercial projects


Call or write the ACOA office nearest you to obtain further information on the Business Development Program. One of ACOA's Account Managers will help you identify your project's needs in terms of professional advice and financing. You can also obtain business development information from Canada Business, a Business Development Centre, or your local industrial or economic development commission.


Some of the documents available on this site are in Adobe Acrobat format. To read Adobe Acrobat files you need Adobe Acrobat Reader 4.0 (or later) on your system. If the Adobe download site is not accessible to you, you can download Acrobat Reader from an accessible page. If the accessibility of PDF is a concern, you can have the file converted to HTML or ASCII text by using one of the access services provide by Adobe.

Related Forms

Electronic Application Form

To assist potential clients, ACOA offers an electronic copy of the application form for the Business Development Program that can be downloaded and printed out, then filled in. Alternatively, you may fill the form and then print it, producing a form that is ready to sign. To save you time and effort, and to ensure your project is eligible, PLEASE contact the ACOA office nearest you before submitting the completed form.

Click here for help with fillable forms

'Once completed, print the completed form and submit the paper copy to the Agency.

Business Development Program Application for Assistance

Printable BDP Claims Forms

To assist clients, ACOA offers electronic copies of claims forms for the Business Development Program that can be downloaded, filled in and printed at your convenience. Paper copies of these forms are also available at the ACOA office nearest you. Need help filling out a form? Contact an ACOA representative for assistance.

Request for Payment
Request for an Advance Payment

Printable PAD Form

To assist clients, ACOA also offers an electronic copy of the Pre-Authorized Debit/Direct Deposit Authorization form. This can be downloaded and printed out.

Pre-authorized Debit/Direct Deposit Authorization (PAD)