Grant Opportunities for Small Business

The idea of getting free money from the government is an attractive idea, but winning a business grant isn't as simple as it sounds.

First you have to pick your way through the myriad of state and federal grants to see what your business might be eligible for. You can either trawl various government websites or engage a grants consultant to help you.

Ben Cusack, principal of grants consultancy Bulletpoint, says grants are available only for businesses with a strong past performance, not for start-ups. "Governments are very low-risk and they like to back winners," he says. "If you've got a track record of success, of growing revenues, of being profitable and employing staff then you're more likely to be funded."

Cusack says it's important that businesses plan well ahead when they want to apply for grants. Preparation can take more than 40 hours and all sorts of supporting documentation may be required, so Cusack recommends starting on the project six months before the application is due. Part of this should involve having a business plan ready to go, because the application will require the sort of information in the plans, such as the type of business, target markets and financial projections.

Stick to the point when filling out grant applications and answer the questions that the application asks. Cusack says the make sure you don't answer a different question or provide non-relevant information because each answer in an application is scored.

Here are eight grants that small businesses can apply for:

1. Export Market Development Grant

Encourages small and medium sized Australian businesses to develop export markets. Reimburses up to 50 per cent of eligible export promotion expenses above $10,000, as long as total expenses are above $20,000.

2. R&D Tax incentive

A tax offset designed to help businesses of all sizes offset some of the costs of doing research and development. It has two core components:

a 45 per cent refundable tax offset (equivalent to a 150 per cent deduction) for businesses with a turnover of less than $20 million a year
non-refundable 40 per cent tax offset (equivalent to 133 per cent deduction) for larger businesses.
3. TCF Small Business Program

Provides grants of up to $50,000 for projects to improve the business enterprise culture of established small textile, clothing and footwear (TCF) business. The businesses must manufacture or design a TCF product in Australia. They

must also have fewer than 20 employees and have turnover of at least $100,000.

4. T-QUAL 

T-QUAL (or tourism quality) grants aim to increase Australia's supply of quality tourism products by providing matched funding of up to $100,000 to large and small-scale tourism projects.

5. Commercialisation Australia

Programs to help businesses commercialise their ideas. There are four basic components, with the first three limited to companies with less than $10 million annual turnover:
Skills and Knowledge - up to $50,000 to access specialist advice and services.
Experienced Executives - funding of up to $350,000 over two years to engage an experienced chief executive officer or other executives.
Proof of Concept - grants up to $250,000 to assist with testing the commercial viability of the business model or idea for a product, process or service.
Early Stage Commercialisation - grants up to $2 million to develop a new product or service to the stage where it can be taken to market.
6. Clean Technology Investment Program

An $800 million grants program to support Australian manufacturers to maintain competitiveness. The program provides grants for investments in energy efficient capital equipment and low emission technologies, processes and products. Minimum grant size is $25,000 and there is no maximum.

7. Enterprise Connect

This offers free comprehensive business review, followed by the opportunity to access up to $20,000 in dollar-for-dollar funding to implement the recommendations of the review. The projects cannot be part of the normal course of the business. Instead they must add new expertise to the business or build its internal capability.

8. Advice

Local Business Enterprise Centres can provide government-assisted advice to small businesses or refer them on to other agencies for government-assisted advice. Business Enterprise Centres Australia chief executive Jackie Zelinsky says there's an increasing demand for small business advice from small businesses and 67 per cent of BEC's clients are home-based micro businesses.