Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency
Symbol of the Government of Canada

2019-20 Departmental Plan
Plans at a glance and operating context

In 2019-20, ACOA will continue its work to grow a strong, diversified and inclusive Atlantic Canadian economy and ensure that small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and communities are well positioned for sustained growth. Over the long term, economic growth in Atlantic Canada will be driven by a combination of factors: the development of emerging and value-added sectors, such as oceans, food, clean technology, and tourism; advanced manufacturing; the development of innovative products and services; and increased market diversification, including improved access to international markets.

Atlantic Canada’s economy continues to face several risks. Because of the region’s small, open economy, international competition from low-cost producers will challenge Atlantic Canada’s manufacturing base and resource industries. Furthermore, changing demographics will have an impact on Atlantic businesses, which are having difficulty meeting their labour needs. Two key ingredients are required to respond to these economic realities and help businesses in the Atlantic region increase their competitiveness and address their skills and labour needs: the attraction and retention of immigrants combined with the integration to the labour force of under-represented groups such as women, youth, Indigenous peoples, and persons with disabilities; and the adoption of advanced manufacturing and other technologies.

In collaboration with other regional development agencies (RDAs), ACOA supports the delivery of Canada’s Innovation and Skills Plan, the government’s new microeconomic framework to drive growth – one that aims to succeed by building a culture of innovation and a globally recognized brand as one of the most innovative and competitive countries in the world. The multi-year plan builds on Canada’s innovation strengths and addresses areas of weakness along the innovation continuum: from people and skills, through to fundamental and applied research, building innovation ecosystems, commercializing ideas and starting up companies, to exporting and scaling up globally competitive companies. Emphasizing partnerships, it brings together stakeholders from across the innovation system. It embraces inclusivity and fosters the participation of traditionally underrepresented groups in the innovation economy.

ACOA is tackling these challenges and opportunities by collaborating with other federal departments and the region’s four provincial governments under the Atlantic Growth Strategy and by identifying strategic initiatives to focus the Agency’s investments, direct its engagement of stakeholders and better help businesses find their way to the right financing programs that will lead to their success. To simplify access to innovation programs, ACOA and the other RDAs will implement the new Regional Economic Growth through Innovation Program (REGI Program). Building on the objectives of the Innovation and Skills Plan, the goals of the REGI Program are: 1) to provide streamlined, nationally coordinated and yet regionally tailored support for business productivity and scale-up, particularly for SMEs and women entrepreneurs and other underrepresented groups; and, 2) to assist the enhancement of regional industrial and technology clusters and regional innovation ecosystems. The program will provide assistance through two new program streams: the Business Scale-up and Productivity Stream and the Regional Innovation Ecosystems Stream. Funding under the REGI program will also be used as part of broader efforts aimed at supporting businesses and workers impacted by the tariffs and countervailing measures in the steel and aluminum industry. By helping businesses strengthen their productivity and competitiveness, the program will help maintain and create good middle-class jobs for Canadians.

In addition, as part of broader investments under the Innovation and Skills Plan, RDAs will deliver new program funding in 2019-20 under the Women Entrepreneurship Strategy (WES), which is focused on helping women to start and grow their businesses, and provides improved access to financing, talent, networks and expertise. ACOA will collaborate with Innovation, Science and Economic Development portfolio partners in the delivery of two new programs: the Women Entrepreneurship Fund and the WES Ecosystem Fund.

ACOA will continue to implement bold ideas to support the long-term, inclusive growth of Atlantic Canada. Through the Agency’s key priorities and through large-scale, collaborative measures like the Atlantic Growth Strategy, ACOA will maintain its integrated and cohesive pan-Atlantic approach of leveraging collective skills, knowledge and assets to help ignite growth and create well-paying jobs.

Investing in the commercialization and adoption of innovative technologies

The Agency will support businesses in investing in new technology to improve their efficiency, productivity and competitiveness, and will foster the development of a strong innovation ecosystem. ACOA will help Atlantic businesses:

  • Pursue automation and the use of transformative technologies, such as artificial intelligence and robotics.
  • Build stronger linkages with innovation ecosystems by working collectively with other public, private and institutional partners and by supporting start-ups.
  • Adopt new technologies for increased productivity and competitiveness, including clean technologies.

Helping to grow globally competitive businesses and sectors

The Agency will capitalize on competitive strengths, regional sector capacity and clusters to scale-up businesses and key industry sectors in Atlantic Canada, while leveraging identified opportunities in markets with high growth potential by:

  • Supporting and advancing the development of the economic potential of Atlantic Canada’s ocean resources, getting more Atlantic food and beverage products on tables at home and abroad, and focusing on a strategic approach to tourism development in the region.
  • Fostering an Atlantic culture of growth through exports by continuing to implement the Atlantic Trade and Investment Growth Strategy (ATIGS) so that regional firms become globally successful by diversifying and expanding their markets and by attracting foreign direct investment to Atlantic Canada.
  • Helping growth-oriented Atlantic Canadian businesses expand by providing them with essential, hands-on support through the Accelerated Growth Service.

Helping communities diversify

The Agency will invest in inclusive growth and provide support to build SMEs and community capacity to plan, attract, hire and retain skilled talent. ACOA will:

  • Work with its provincial and federal partners to increase the region’s skilled workforce and strengthen the cultural diversity of Atlantic Canadian communities through the attraction and retention of newcomers and their families.
  • Support Indigenous economic development by strengthening partnerships and working with other government departments, Indigenous governments, as well as with Indigenous economic associations.
  • Invest in women entrepreneurs, through the new WES, to help them grow their businesses and pursue new market opportunities and help non-profit, third-party organizations deliver support for women entrepreneurs and address gaps in the ecosystem.

For more information on ACOA’s plans, priorities and planned results, see the “Planned results” section of this report.