Innovation plays a vital role in the growth of an economy. Spending on research and development (R&D) is an important determinant of the innovation process. Engaging in R&D can be considered risky for firms as there is no guarantee that there will be a positive return and concerns of competitors imitating a successful innovation. As a result, firms may be reluctant to engage in R&D. These challenges may be especially acute for small Canadian-controlled private corporations (CCPCs), who may not have the same access to resources and expertise as larger firms. Given the importance of innovation for growth, governments seek to intervene to fix the R&D under-investment issue through grants, loans, or tax incentives. Since 1944, the Canadian government has used the Income Tax Act and R&D tax incentives to stimulate scientific research activity. The incentives have evolved, and since 1985, the primary mechanism used in Canada to encourage R&D is the Scientific Research and Experimental Development (SR&ED) program. The SR&ED program comprises tax deductions and an investment tax credit and with differing rates for smaller CCPCs, individuals, and larger corporations. Traditional research in R&D and tax incentives has evaluated whether the incentives displace private R&D activities (crowding-out) or induce increased R&D expenditures and projects (additionality). There was little understanding of why CCPCs engage in R&D and how they manage their R&D practices. In order to better understand the motivation to engage in R&D and how small CCPCs manage their R&D practices in the context of the SR&ED program, the research design includes semi-structured interviews with 18 small CCPCs. This study finds that firms that engage in R&D are more likely to have an internal context that has values and a strategic orientation to develop innovation. The decision to engage in R&D is also influenced by the product lifecycle and resource, systems, and processes constraints. In contrast, the R&D management practices are influenced by the external environment. The findings of this study provide insight into the motivation to apply for the SR&ED program and the influence the program has on R&D behaviour within a small CCPC.