As part of its National Innovation and Science Agenda the federal government is actively seeking to encourage entrepreneurship and grow small business in Australia.
As well as various tax breaks and initiatives to attract investment in innovative and high-potential startup businesses, they are offering funding and support to ‘incubator’ services that “help innovative startups to rapidly transform their ideas into globally competitive businesses”.
The incubation support initiative is part of the Entrepreneurs’ Programme, which also offers accelerating commercialisation grants to small incorporated businesses. These grants provide “expert advice and matched funding of up to $1 million to cover eligible commercialisation costs to help them take novel products, processes and services to market.”
Applying for an accelerating commercialisation grant can be a lengthy and complex process. There are lots of criteria to meet – including that you intend to trade beyond the boundaries of your state or territory, and that you have the rights to a sufficiently ‘novel’ product or service – so it won’t be suitable for many businesses. It’s important, too, to note that this is ‘matched funding’ – which means you’ll have to prove you can fund at least 50% of the project expenses yourself.
Christopher Gardner, a small business grant veteran says the most important part of a grant application is “A concise but comprehensive project summary that clearly responds to the program’s objectives. This will “capture” the Assessors attention leading them to actively consider the project.”
There are many other government grants available to small businesses for specific purposes such as conducting market research and testing your business model or hiring staff, or to help cover startup or expansion costs. Many of these are state or local government grants that only apply to particular regions or types of business.
If you don’t qualify for a government grant, some financial institutions offer grant programs for small businesses too, such as the St. George Kick Start program.
Out of 33% of startups that applied, 22% received funding through a government grant in 2016.
If you decide to apply for grant funding, expect to invest a lot of time and effort into the process. There’s no guarantee of success, which puts off many busy entrepreneurs, but if you do manage to secure a grant the reward of ‘free’ money, plus the advice and support that usually comes with it, is well worth the hard work.