Small and medium-sized businesses in Nova Scotia will soon have access to funding for support and services through a pilot program to help them become more innovative and productive. The Productivity and Innovation Voucher Pilot Program will award eligible businesses vouchers for up to $15,000 to help purchase services and support to expand their businesses. The program targets areas such as research, management of intellectual property, new product and product prototype design, lab equipment rental, and support for post-graduate students placements. “This program reinforces government’s commitment to support and stimulate innovation and productivity, ensuring that our businesses are globally competitive and sustainable,” said Economic Development Minister Angus MacIssac. “A key benefit of this program is that it will provide small and medium-sized businesses with a range of options, allowing them the flexibility to choose the services they need in a way that is most convenient for them.” Organizations interested in providing services for the voucher program are invited to visit www.gov.ns.ca/econ/pnivouchers/ to submit information about their services and programs. A final list of eligible service providers will be posted Friday, Nov. 21. Businesses can submit applications for the program vouchers, on the same website, beginning Monday, Nov. 24. The Department of Economic Development will review the applications on a first-come, first-serve basis and award the vouchers based on eligibility criteria set out on the website, and the level of demand for the various service providers. Once approved for a voucher, a business will select from the service providers, and arrange for the work to be done. The pilot program will use $1 million in private-sector productivity and innovation funding allocated in the 2008-09 provincial budget. The program will accept applications from businesses until Dec. 21. Innovation voucher programs have been used successfully in Ireland and the Netherlands. For more information on the Productivity and Innovation Voucher program, visit the website at www.gov.ns.ca/econ/pnivouchers/ .