Thirty-four small businesses across Nova Scotia are on their way to becoming more innovative and productive with help from the province. Through the Productivity and Innovation Voucher Program, these businesses were awarded vouchers of up to $15,000, to partner with post-secondary institutions to explore new business opportunities or how to improve products and operations. “Small businesses are essential to the economy of our province and we are committed to supporting their growth,” said MLA Lenore Zann, on behalf of Economic and Rural Development Minister, Percy Paris. “This program enables businesses to make their operations more productive and competitive, helping to create good jobs and grow the economy.” Since 2008, the program has awarded vouchers to 117 businesses across the province, in such areas as industrial and consumer manufacturing, information and communication technologies, life sciences and agri-foods. “Through this program and our partnership with the Nova Scotia Agricultural College, we will be able to assess the health benefits and commercial viability of blueberry bi-products,” said Nancy Tregunno, of Annapolis Valley’s Nova Agri Inc. “This program is an important tool to help small businesses invest in research to create innovative, value-added products.” One of the program’s main goals is to help build and strengthen links between small business and universities and colleges. Ten institutions are participating in the program this year. “The Nova Scotia Agricultural College is very proud to be part of the voucher program; it’s a win-win situation for both the university and the business,” said Richard Donald, NSAC vice-president of research, extension and outreach. “Innovative, problem-solving research is critical to the future sustainability of the industry and has a direct impact on our local economy.” For a full list of this year’s recipients and more information on the program, visit www.gov.ns.ca/econ/pnivouchers/ .