Gary Will writes at WatStart (a good resource for tech entrepreneurs in the Kitchener-Waterloo area) about the Business Mentorship & Entrepreneurship Program (BMEP) available in Ontario. This program grants small amounts of seed funding to help get an idea off the ground. Through the same program, one can also apply to get funding for market research data.
As part of the same program, your company can get up to $10,000 in funding for a project to help move your product along the path to market. The program won't pay for general business services, such as business plan consulting or marketing consulting or fundraising assistance, but will cover costs related to moving technologies from an idea to a product, such as third-party validation, testing, IP protection, certification, and licensing.
They don't pay in advance, but it's a straight grant—no repayment, no cost to you at all. You just need to get approval ... and, so far, most of what we've submitted has been given the freen light. It may not be that way forever—there's only so much money to go around and though the demand has been less than expected, it probably won't stay that way.
It is great to see provincial governments supporting entrepreneurship. A topic that comes up frequently is the difficulty of getting seed funding in small amounts that VCs aren't interested in dealing. Government funding can fill that missing link from idea to company. The program is managed by MaRS in Toronto, and by Communitech in Waterloo. Interested entrepreneurs in Waterloo can contact Gary (gary [at] communitech [dot] ca) for more info.