Nova Scotia businesses will again have an opportunity to enhance productivity and innovation with support from the province. The Department of Economic and Rural Development is providing $500,000 for the second year of the Productivity and Innovation Voucher program. “We are building on the success of last year’s pilot program,” said Economic and Rural Development Minister Percy Paris. “This is the type of accessible support that businesses can use to make their operations more competitive and, as a result, strengthen our economy.” The voucher program provides small and medium-sized businesses with vouchers, worth up to $15,000, to work collaboratively with publicly funded institutions, such as universities and colleges. Businesses use the vouchers to obtain assistance in areas such as applied research, engineering services, prototyping and field testing. “With the assistance of the voucher program, we were able to work closely with a university to make improvements to one of our key pieces of machinery,” said Kelvin Sams, president of Sunrise Foods, a Dartmouth company that provides snack-food products across Canada and one of 50 companies that participated in the pilot program. “These improvements have allowed us to increase productivity of our snack food packaging process and increase our business potential.” The program helps build and strengthen links between small business and universities and colleges. “The voucher program opens the door for businesses to interact with universities,” said Ronald Layden, executive director industry liaison and innovation, Dalhousie University. “Dalhousie, like other universities, has the expertise and the specialized facilities that small and medium-sized businesses can use to become more innovative and productive.” Businesses interested in applying for program vouchers can get information at www.gov.ns.ca/econ/pnivouchers/ . The deadline for applications is Nov. 18. Funding for the Productivity and Innovation Voucher Program was allocated in the 2009-10 provincial budget.