If you have the spark of a business idea in Nova Scotia's heartlands, apply for up to $50,000 to help it grow.

Spark Something

SPARK is a province-wide competition for early stage innovation companies across Nova Scotia. Winners receive up to $50,000 and guidance from seasoned business professionals to put their ideas into action. The goal of SPARK is to find and support high potential, early stage knowledge-based companies, and encourage entrepreneurial activity across the province.

SPARK 2020 will be held in three geographic regions covering greater Nova Scotia — Cape Breton, NS North and NS South West, with three competitions running simultaneously. Each region operates independently, with its own applicant pool and judging committee.

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Supporters

Sponsors participate in the programming — including showcasing their start-up professionals as speakers and judges; extensive logo placement & messaging; regular social media push-outs; and, one-on-one engagement with the companies, judges and other sponsors. SPARK Nova Scotia is supported by the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.

Thank you for making SPARK possible:

Eligibility

Entrants must have a new knowledge-based product or service.

Spark will accept applications from companies with zero or minimal revenue, if that revenue was obtained prior to the company commercially scaling up. In other words, if a company has launched, but is showing “pre-scale-up” revenue only — for example, revenue derived from beta clients or similar customer validation efforts — the Spark judging panel will consider those applicants.

Funds awarded will be used to support the completion of prototypes or preparation for taking the product or service to market.

Entrants must be the majority owner(s) (51 per cent or more) of the start-up, and plan to work full-time with the business in the competition region.

Spark is especially interested in start-ups from the agricultural technology, life sciences, clean technology and ocean technology sectors. However, we welcome submissions for any innovation with high-growth potential.

Agriculture

Based in Nova Scotia

Your head office must be physically located in one of the three Spark regions and the business is or will be registered there. No award funding will be disbursed until the business is registered in the respective region. Entrants must apply in the region where the business is physically located. The regions include:

  • Spark South West – Lunenburg County, Queens County, Shelburne County, Yarmouth County, Digby County, Annapolis County, Kings County, West Hants County.
  • Spark North – Guysborough County, Antigonish County, Pictou County, Cumberland County, Colchester County, East Hants County, Rural Halifax County (excludes Halifax, Dartmouth, Bedford)
  • Spark Cape Breton – all of Cape Breton Island
Aquaculture

Start-up

Start-up refers only to sales revenue and not to the number of years in business. To qualify as a start-up for Spark, your company may have zero or minimal revenue, if that revenue was obtained prior to the company commercially scaling up. For example, a company may have a small amount of sales based upon customer validation efforts, but will not have commercially scaled up yet.

New knowledge-based product or service

The business proposition must be a unique technology or innovative product or service that cannot be easily duplicated.

Previous applicants

If you have applied for Spark in the past, you are very welcome and encouraged to apply again. Only previous Spark winners would not be eligible.

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Timeline

Thursday, August 6, 2020: Program Launch

Tuesday, September 8, 2020: Submission Deadline

Wednesday, September 9, 2020: “Qualified Applicants” Notified

Friday, September 25, 2020: “Finalists” Notified

September 10 – October 2, 2020: Spark Training Across Province

October 7-15, 2020: Pitches and Judging

Friday, October 16, 2020: Winners Notified

Spark Training Program

All applicants are welcome to participate in the first three Spark Training Program modules: "Identifying and Managing the Risks in a New Business"; "Introduction to the Business Model Canvas"; and, "Finance: What Young Companies Need to Know". These modules will offer business-building skills and support to help participants accelerate the development of their businesses. The shortlisted applicants additionally will participate in Pitch Training, to prepare for the final round of Spark when they will pitch to the judging committee. The training program is tailored to each cohort to provide the support and guidance they need the most. Participation in the training program will be considered in the evaluation of the finalists.

Note: Unless stated otherwise, all training sessions will be delivered via Zoom at 5:00 pm AT. They will be recorded and available for one week after the session date.

Although sessions will be online, they will be live, and participants who attend will be able to ask questions and benefit from a high level of engagement.

If you want even more Spark training, we have you covered.
All applicants are eligible to attend a customized Spark Bootcamp developed and delivered by CEED. Need assistance strengthening your application? Want to know how to better understand and communicate the value of your innovative idea? CEED's Spark Bootcamp will ready and prepare you for the challenge and help you submit a stand-out application. Be part of a program that empowered previous Spark Nova Scotia competition winners. For more details, and to apply for CEED’s program, visit CEED's Workshops/Bootcamps

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cape breton

SPARK CAPE BRETON

September 10
“Identifying and Managing the Risks in a New Business”

September 18
“Introduction to the Business Model Canvas”

September 21
“Finance – What Young Companies Need to Know”

September 22 - 24
Shortlisting by judges: Six finalists chosen from each region.

September 28 - October 2
Pitch Training: 30-minute, one-on-one pitch training for all 18 finalists.

October 15
Pitch Competition (9:30 am – 2 pm) – Spark Judges - Sydney.

October 16
Winners informed.

October 19
Gala awards reception — location to be provided once safety requirements met.

nova scotia vineyard

SPARK NORTH

September 10
“Identifying and Managing the Risks in a New Business”

September 18
“Introduction to the Business Model Canvas”

September 21
“Finance – What Young Companies Need to Know”

September 22 - 24
Shortlisting by judges: Six finalists chosen from each region.

September 28 - October 2
Pitch Training: 30-minute, one-on-one pitch training for all 18 finalists.

October 7
Pitch Competition (9:30 am – 2 pm) – Spark Judges - Truro.

October 16
Winners informed.

October 19
Gala awards reception — location to be provided once safety requirements met.

nova scotia peggys cove lighthouse

SPARK SOUTH WEST

September 10
“Identifying and Managing the Risks in a New Business”

September 18
“Introduction to the Business Model Canvas”

September 21
“Finance – What Young Companies Need to Know”

September 22 - 24
Shortlisting by judges: Six finalists chosen from each region.

September 28 - October 2
Pitch Training: 30-minute, one-on-one pitch training for all 18 finalists.

October 8
Pitch Competition (9:30 am – 2 pm) – Spark Judges - Bridgewater.

October 16
Winners informed.

October 19
Gala awards reception — location to be provided once safety requirements met.

 

Round One – Business Summary

All Applicants: Complete the business summary form, below, using the instructions provided at “Pointers on using the form”. (NOTE: Fillable PDF coming soon!) Submit the document via the website link or download and send via email to sandra@sparknovascotia.com by Tuesday, September 8, 2020, at 11:59 pm ADT. All qualified applicants are welcome to attend the first three training modules.

Qualified Applicants will be notified by September 9, 2020, to continue with the three training modules.

Finalists from among the Qualified Applicants will be notified by September 23, 2020, to proceed with pitch training.

Round Two – Pitch

Finalists: Finalists are required to attend the first three training modules plus pitch training, then make their pitches to the judging panel between October 7 - 15, 2020. Finalists will have 10 minutes each to present their business overview, followed by a 10-minute question and answer session. A projector, screen and computer will be available in the presentation room. Finalists must provide an electronic copy of their presentation 24 hours prior to their scheduled pitch time.

Winners will be notified by October 16, 2020, and a public announcement will follow soon afterward. Feedback will be provided to all shortlisted applicants upon request.

What application do I apply for?

Spark Cape Breton 

all of Cape Breton Island

Spark North

Guysborough County, Antigonish County, Pictou County, Cumberland County, Colchester County, East Hants County, Rural HRM (excludes Halifax, Dartmouth, Bedford)

Spark South West

Lunenburg County, Queens County, Shelburne County, Yarmouth County, Digby County, Annapolis County, Kings County, West Hants County.

Confidentiality

All submissions will be treated confidentially and will not be made available to the public. Only those directly involved in managing or judging the competition will view submitted documents. While summary details will not be disclosed, the competition organizers reserve the right to announce those who advance to subsequent competition rounds.

Pointers on using the form

As with any online form, it’s always advisable to save content frequently offline (you wouldn’t want a power outage to wipe away your work) and once you’re online, test before you begin to determine the best saving and submitting methods for you.

For the “Save and Continue Later” feature, enter a few test words, then click “Save and Continue Later”. If you opt to have the link sent to your email, type in your email address. You should receive an email containing the link right away, so check all email folders connected to the email address you entered. (Depending upon your spam settings, the email might have been routed to a junk folder.) If you choose instead to save the link to a document on your computer, or to bookmark it via a browser, just select, copy & save or bookmark, then close your browser and go back to click the link, just to ensure your saved content is there. NOTE: every time you click “Save and Continue Later” a new unique link is generated. When you’re happy with everything entered on the form, click the blue “Submit Application” button, prior to the deadline of September 8, 2020 at 11:59 p.m. Atlantic.

To use the downloadable form, click “Download the Form” at the top of the application form page. Depending upon your settings, the form may appear as a narrow box with an arrow to open, or may be saved in your “Downloads” folder. Open in Microsoft Word or convert to another application, then proceed to enter content and save on your own computer until you are ready to submit the entire form. When you’re satisfied that it is complete, send the document as an attachment via email to sandra@sparknovascotia.com prior to the deadline of September 8, 2020 at 11:59 p.m. Atlantic.

Application