Innovation Cluster to Officially Open Applications for Start-up Visa Program, One of Few Rural Locations Offered in Canada

The Innovation Cluster will officially open access to applications for its first cohort of the Start-up Visa Program Friday, January 8, 2021 at 12:01AM EST. The organization is one of only a few rural organizations among only 31 current other business incubators across Canada designated to offer the program, allowing immigrant entrepreneurs to build businesses in Canada that are innovative, can create jobs for Canadians and can compete on a global scale.

Since announcing the program in November 2020, the Innovation Cluster has already received interest from over 40 companies worldwide, including in Russia, India, Iran, the United States and China.

“Having the Start-up Visa Program offered in this region has been years in the making,” notes John Gillis, President of the Innovation Cluster. “It has been astounding to see the interest by companies globally in just the past couple of months since receiving the designation. We are looking forward to bringing the best in tech and innovation to Peterborough and the Kawarthas.”

The Innovation Cluster will review the applications and intake a select number of qualified, high potential businesses to take part in a three-month virtual accelerator. The accelerator will educate the founders on starting a business in Canada and support them in their business growth as they work through their visa application. If the company is at the right stage by end of month three, the Innovation Cluster will provide a letter of support to the Government of Canada to coincide the founder’s application. The letter will support the company’s move to the region for a 12 month residency while supported by the Innovation Cluster.

The application process to achieve 12 month residency is extensive, and can take anywhere from 12 to 16 months. Other requirements include having a qualifying business, meeting the language requirements and having enough money to settle. 

This program will bring many benefits to the region including bringing the best and brightest minds from around the world. It enables immigrant entrepreneurs to launch innovative companies that will create jobs locally and compete globally, provides entrepreneurs with valuable assistance in navigating the Canadian business landscape which can sometimes be challenging for newcomers and it will provide private sector firms with access to a broader range of entrepreneurs. 

Notably the perfect location between Toronto and Ottawa, those that will move to the area through the program will increase the region’s numbers for its immigration population. In Peterborough’s New Canadians Centre Annual General Report 2020, 1,147 clients were served from 78 countries to date since 2018. 

“Peterborough & the Kawarthas is a recognized start-up destination and ideal location for new companies to prosper” says Rhonda Keenan, President & CEO of Peterborough & the Kawarthas Economic Development. “Peterborough & the Kawarthas not only has world-class educational institutions, private equity and supportive government programs, but there is also a dedicated network of agencies and partners that work collaboratively to provide wrap-around support and assistance to new business ventures to ensure their success. The Start-up Visa Program offered through the Innovation Cluster is just one more example of how this mid-sized region competes with larger destinations to attract and grow new and innovative companies.”

According to Forbes, there will be an increase of interest on programs like the Start-up Visa Program following the Covid-19 pandemic, specifically in Canada, as more people look to purchase locally while import and export options decrease.

“NACO is a proud industry partner of the Government of Canada for the Start-up Visa Program incubator stream,” says Claudio Rojas, CEO of NACO. “Newcomer entrepreneurs bring new perspectives and personal connections to global gateways and destination markets for our goods and services. Entrepreneurs are the job creation engines of our local communities, creating new solutions and commercializing big ideas. We look forward to supporting the Innovation Cluster as a member of NACO as they continue to advance economic growth within the Peterborough and Kawartha region as a Start-up Visa designated entity.” 

Companies that successfully co-locate to the region will also have access to the local angel investors.

“The Peterborough Region Angel Network (PRAN) is very pleased to be associated with the Innovation Cluster’s bold new initiative,” says Yves LaFortune, Executive Director of PRAN. “The Start-up Visa Program, which aims to attract international entrepreneurs and their early stage enterprises to our area will no doubt  present many exciting opportunities for our members.”

The Start-up Visa Program is an additional program to the Innovation Cluster’s regular services that has supported over 50 companies locally in the past year alone. 

To apply and learn more, visit: 


The Innovation Cluster is following Canadian health guidelines and protocols for Covid-19 and will continue to adjust programming on an on-going basis.