Without doubt, starting a business is difficult. It’s hard work and risky. And even once a business is up and running, growing it – expanding it to meet its potential – is a major challenge.
Of course, Australian governments (Commonwealth, State, and sometimes local) recognise this. They also understand the value of encouraging and assisting small businesses – not surprising with small businesses responsible for over 40% of private sector employment.
As a result, hundreds of business grants and assistance programs are on offer. These include:
- incentives for research and development,
- support for small businesses,
- tax and duty concessions,
- assistance for industries in transition.
The programs span a wide range of industries covering every stage from startup, through running and growing, to selling or closing a business. Some are countrywide and some are State or Territory, or even region, specific.
And that’s where the problems begin. With so many programs, administered by so many different organisations, each with their own rules, where should you even start to look? Because of this, a number of businesses have emerged offering to help small businesses to find the right program for them, and to apply for it… for a fee of course.
Now we have no problem with businesses charging a fee to provide a valid service, but some of these businesses apply high pressure sales tactics, including emphasis on urgent deadlines that often don’t exist.
And none of them mention that there is a Commonwealth government website designed to help businesses find grants and assistance easily… and free of charge… covering State/Territory/regional as well as Commonwealth programs.
Before you talk to fee charging companies, have a look at the government’s Grant-Finder.
You can search by industry or type of assistance sought, and/or by region. The results provide a summary of each grant that matches your search, lists the application closing date if there is one, and links to details about eligibility for the grant, and to the administrator of the program so you can learn more and make an application.
If you decide to go ahead and use a private sector firm to help you find and apply for a grant, make sure you understand exactly what their fees are, and what services you expect to receive for the money.
Government Grants for Australian Business Owners
Each state in Australia has its own business incentives, but for this post, we have listed business grants and government support that are available all over Australia.
If you need marketing assistance for your new product or service, Accelerating Commercialisation could be the business grant you need.
This incentive has two main features:
- Commercialisation Guidance – provides professional advice on commercialisation, endorsement to other available assistance from the government, and also support in applying for grants
- Actual grant – provides up to 50 per cent of your expenses for your marketing. Available grant is up to A$1 Million.
To qualify, you must be a registered Australian business with a new product or service that you want to commercialise.
Applicants also need to pass the Turnover Test and you also need to demonstrate your capacity to shoulder the remaining 50% of the marketing project.
Australian Apprenticeship Incentives Program (AAIP)
In this program, businesses or even sole traders can hire apprentices and conduct comprehensive training.
Many businesses can benefit from hiring apprentices and trainees because you will have added manpower.
This is more affordable than hiring a full-time regular staff, and businesses can also take advantage of training programs.
The incentive ranges between A$750 and A$4,000 per year, depending on the training conducted.
To qualify, you should establish a training agreement with your apprentice, and the training should be Advanced Diploma level or at least Certificate II, III, IV.
Covid-19 Support for Small Businesses
Small businesses and sole traders can take advantage of available financial support to help in business recovery.
One support that could assist in sustaining cash flow is the SME Recovery Loan Scheme, which provides SMEs loans during the pandemic.
To meet the eligibility criteria, you should be a small business with an annual turnover of up to A$250 million and you received JobKeeper payments in March 2021.
Self employing businesses and not for profit organisations are also eligible and may apply for special loan assistance under the scheme.
This startup business grant is administered by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO).
It offers matched funding for small businesses to unlock the research expertise of the government agency to accelerate business growth.
You may take advantage of this grant if you need help in researching a new business idea, developing your own products, or testing your products or business process.
Successful applicants used the grant to pay for researcher compensation, pay for external suppliers, and even business overheads.
To qualify, you should be a GST registered business in Australia for less than three years with an annual turnover of not more than A$1.5 million.
You also need to demonstrate your capacity to dollar-match the funding.
The Entrepreneurs Programme
The Entrepreneurs Programme is considered as one of the best government programs offered by the Australian government for business owners.
The program helps entrepreneurs increase their productivity via grants and access to an expert panel.
Up to A$1 Million of funding are available via different business schemes.
To qualify, your business should be involved in the following sectors:
- Medical technology
- Advanced Manufacturing
- Tourism (for businesses located in Northern Territory)
Export Market Development Grant (EMDG)
EMDG is ideal for Australian business owners who have proven products or services and are planning to go overseas.
This is an awesome grant for SMEs looking to expand their operations, because it offers refunds of up to 50 per cent for activities marketing their products and services to overseas markets.
The incentive begins at A$5,000 and up to A$150,000.
To qualify, your business should have a total revenue of not more than $50 million, and the main applicant should be a principal in the exportation of products and not a third party or agent.
Research & Development Tax Incentive
Unlike other business grants that offer cash incentives, this program offers tax assistance for qualified R&D activities.
Hence, if you are incurring high expenses for research and development, you may ask for up to 43.5% tax offset in form of a cash rebate.
This incentive is designed to encourage smaller businesses to fund important R&D that benefits the business community in Australia.
To qualify, your business should have an aggregated turnover of not more than A$20 million, and you should engage in eligible research and development activities.
The Innovation Connections scheme provides SMEs with a trained business facilitator to assist in understanding R&D needs.
After completing the steps, you can qualify for a small business grant to help with your R&D needs.
This grant can subsidise hiring a researcher into the business once you decided to complete an R&D project in cooperation with a Publicly Funded Research Organisation or PFRO.
To qualify, you need to be a registered business in Australia with yearly turnover of at least $1.5 million.
The Landing Pads program is quite different from other grants discussed in this blog because it doesn’t offer cash incentives.
Instead, the program provides actual benefits to entrepreneurs and startups who are market-ready.
With the scheme, qualified businesses can use a workspace for at least 90 days.
The workspace is not just a mere work area but a designated innovation hub that comes with access to training and networking programs.
The hubs are not only situated in Australia but also in Shanghai, Berlin, Tel Aviv, San Francisco and Singapore.
To qualify, your product or service must be ready for market and you should have a working customer acquisition plan.
Tourism Industry Regional Development Fund
Each state in Australia has its own tourism regional development fund, so you can check with your state to learn opportunities and requirements to qualify.
The fund offers incentives for qualified tourism projects that are geared towards improving tourism in your region.
The minimum grant is A$50,000 and the maximum grant is $A250,000.
A few things to remember when researching government grants and assistance…
– all official government websites have .gov.au at the end (so if you see a .com or a .org it’s not a government site)
– none of the programs charge a fee to apply for a grant
– all decisions about grants are based on merit – you can’t pay for special access.
What Are Your Thoughts?
Have you received a business grant? Is it something you think you should be looking into for your business? Join the conversation — leave a comment below and let us know what you’re thoughts are.