How to get the $5M Industry Growth Program

What is the Industry Growth Program?

The Industry Growth Program offers grants from $50,000 to $5 million to Australian SMEs for early-stage commercialisation and growth projects in sectors like renewables and medical science.


Background

The Industry Growth Program aims to bolster Australian small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) by enhancing their capability to innovate, commercialise new products, and scale operations within key priority areas outlined by the National Reconstruction Fund (NRF). These priority sectors include advanced manufacturing, renewables, and medical technologies among others. The program not only facilitates the development of innovative technologies but also supports Australia’s strategic goals in strengthening its manufacturing sector and boosting economic growth through increased investment in R&D. This initiative underscores the government’s commitment to transforming Australia’s industry landscape and securing sustainable future growth.

 

Objectives

The objectives of the Industry Growth Program are to:

  • Enhance the innovative capabilities of Australian small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) within the priority sectors outlined by the National Reconstruction Fund (NRF).
  • Support the commercialisation of new products and technologies that contribute to Australia’s manufacturing and technological advancement.
  • Foster growth and scalability of SMEs through the adoption of innovative processes and technologies.
  • Strengthen Australia’s economy by bolstering sectors critical to the nation’s strategic interests, including renewable energy, medical sciences, and advanced manufacturing.


Core Elements


Advisory Service
Advisory service in the Industry Growth Program involves tailored guidance from experienced advisers who help businesses develop strategies for commercialisation and growth, including market testing and intellectual property management.

Eligible Entities
Applicants for the Industry Growth Program must meet the following criteria to be eligible under the program:

  • have a combined annual turnover of less than $20 million for each of the 3 financial years before lodging your application
  • have an Australian business number (ABN)
  • are not exempt from paying income tax
  • are registered for the goods and services tax (GST)

Grant Opportunities

Early-Stage Commercialisation
Early-stage commercialisation involves activities such as feasibility studies, prototype development, and market validation to prepare innovative products, processes, or services for market launch.

Commercialisation and Growth Commercialisation and growth refer to the process of developing a product, process, or service from initial prototyping through to full-scale production and market entry, aiming to expand into new markets and increase production capacity.

Eligible Entities

Applicants for the Industry Growth Program grant must meet the following criteria to be eligible under the program:

  • Have an Australian Business Number (ABN): Applicants must hold a valid ABN and be registered for the Goods and Services Tax (GST).
  • Be Non-Income-Tax-Exempt: The applicant must not be exempt from paying income tax.
  • Entity Type: Applicants must be one of the following:
  • A company incorporated in Australia.
  • A co-operative.
  • An incorporated trustee applying on behalf of a trust.
  • Annual Turnover: Applicants must have a combined annual turnover of less than $20 million for each of the three financial years prior to the lodgment of the application.
  • Engagement in the Advisory Service: Applicants must have participated in the program’s Advisory Service and received a report from an adviser.
  • Intellectual Property (IP): Applicants must own or have access to any IP necessary to undertake their commercialisation and growth project and must own or have the exclusive right to commercialise any IP generated from it.
  • Financial Capability: Applicants must be able to demonstrate their financial capability to fund at least their share of the project expenditure.

Eligible Expenditure

The eligible expenditures for the Industry Growth Program are:

  • Feasibility Studies: Costs associated with conducting studies to assess the feasibility of innovative products, processes, or services.
  • Proof-of-Concept Development: Expenses related to developing and testing a proof-of-concept to validate the technical and commercial viability.
  • Prototype Development: Funding for designing, building, and testing prototypes to demonstrate the functionality of the innovation.
  • Market Research and Validation: Costs involved in market research and validation activities to ensure the product or service meets market needs.
  • Intellectual Property Costs: Expenditures related to securing intellectual property rights such as patents or trademarks.
  • Scaling Production: Expenses for scaling up production from prototype to commercial quantities.
  • Commercialisation Activities: Costs involved in preparing the product or service for commercial launch, including marketing and distribution setup.


Funding

Eligible SMEs can apply for grants between $50,000 and $5 million with matched funding on a 1:1 basis.

Between $50,000 and $250,000 for early-stage commercialisation projects.
Between $100,000 and $5 million for more extensive commercialisation and growth projects.

 

Eligible Activities

Eligible expenditure for the Industry Growth Program  includes:

  • Feasibility and Proof-of-Concept Studies: Funding for studies to validate the feasibility and commercial potential of innovative ideas.
  • Prototype Design and Testing: Costs related to designing, developing, and testing prototypes to ensure they meet required specifications before market introduction.
  • Market Entry Strategy Development: Support for creating and implementing marketing strategies to introduce new products or services into the market.
  • Production Scaling: Expenditures for scaling up production capabilities to meet commercial demand.
  • Intellectual Property Management: Funds for securing and managing intellectual property rights essential for protecting innovative ideas.
  • Strategic Business Planning: Assistance for strategic planning activities, including market analysis, business model development, and long-term growth strategies.
  • Workforce Expansion and Training: Costs associated with expanding the team, including hiring new staff and providing necessary training to support business growth.


How to get the Industry Growth Program grant?

In order to secure the Industry Growth Program grant, you will need to focus on:

  • Demonstrate Innovative Product/Service: Clearly outline how your product, process, or service is unique or significantly improves upon existing solutions.
  • Alignment with NRF Priorities: Ensure your project aligns with at least one of the National Reconstruction Fund’s priority areas.
  • Commercial Viability: Show the market demand for your innovation and detail your strategy for capturing this market.
  • Technical Readiness: Describe your current technology readiness level and how the grant will help advance it.
  • Management Capability: Highlight the experience and qualifications of your team to manage and execute the project successfully.
  • Financial Planning: Provide a detailed budget showing how funds will be used and evidence of your capacity to match funding.
  • Intellectual Property Strategy: Detail your approach to securing or enhancing intellectual property rights for your innovation.
  • Market Entry Strategy: Outline your plans for entering or expanding into new markets, including international markets if applicable.
  • Growth Impact: Explain how the project will contribute to growth in terms of revenue, employment, and operational scale.
  • Risk Management: Identify potential risks and your strategies for mitigating them throughout the project’s duration.


Timing

The application process for the Industry Growth Program is open-ended, meaning you can apply at any time. There is no specific closing date for submissions, allowing for continuous opportunities to seek funding as your project needs arise.


More Information

Source
Early Stage Commercialisation Guidelines
Commercialisation and Growth


Track Record

Bulletpoint has worked with a number of early-stage companies to assist them to obtain commercialisation funding.

Sovereign Industrial Capability Priority Grant Bulletpoint assisted Thomas Global Systems in securing a grant of $2 million to develop and manufacture next-generation avionics and high-integrity defence electronics. The company will develop and qualify two new flight-critical avionics products – an Enhanced Upfront Display Unit and a Keyboard Unit for Boeing AH-64 Apache Helicopter, a significant US military airborne program. The products will utilise extant, proven Thomas Global technology and processes, which will be customised to suit the Apache program’s requirements. The Australian Government has announced plans to purchase Apache helicopters as part of its LAND 4503 program. Thomas Global designs, manufactures and supports highly engineered and reliable electronic systems solutions for commercial aviation, defence and other high-integrity transportation applications.

Bulletpoint assisted Ovira to secure $400,000. Ovira was founded by Alice Williams, a 27-year old endometriosis sufferer who was inspired to create the new device after years of searching for a pain-management option for her own endometriosis. When she couldn’t find a solution that was drug-free or didn’t involve invasive procedures, she looked for an alternative.

MVP Ventures Grant

Bulletpoinst assisted PolyNovo to secure $500,000. PolyNovo plans to use the funding to support the purchase of new equipment and the upgrading of existing equipment used for manufacturing our NovoSorb SynPath product, used for amongst other things diabetic foot ulcers (DFU).

 

Previous Recipients

Commercialisation of the Morse Micro Wi-Fi HaLow chip

Morse Micro is a semiconductor startup that develops and markets low-power, long-range Wi-Fi chips based on the new Wi-Fi HaLow (IEEE 802.11ah) standard.

Commercialisation of the NeoNAV neonatal device

Navi Medical Technologies is a medical device startup focused on improving healthcare for critically ill newborns. The company’s NeoNAV device is designed to improve the accuracy and safety of central line catheter placement in neonates.

Commercialisation of an energy storage solution using encapsulated phase change materials

MGA Thermal is an energy storage startup that has developed a technology that uses encapsulated phase change materials to store and release large amounts of energy as needed. This technology could provide cost-effective, grid-scale energy storage solutions.

Development and commercialisation of a rapid diagnostic test for infectious diseases

SpeeDx is a molecular diagnostics company that specialises in creating innovative, rapid diagnostic solutions for various infectious diseases. Their tests aim to deliver accurate and timely results to improve patient outcomes.

Commercialisation of a non-invasive continuous blood pressure monitoring device

Tournicare is a medical technology company developing a non-invasive, continuous blood pressure monitoring device that aims to improve patient care and management of hypertension.

News

The Australian Government has unveiled the $392.4 million Industry Growth Program, offering not-for-profit industry organisations grants between $500,000 and $2 million to support startups and scaleups. This initiative aims to bolster Australia’s manufacturing capabilities and assist SMEs in commercialising innovative ideas. Eligible Industry Partner Organisations (IPOs) will provide sector-specific advisory services aligned with the National Reconstruction Fund’s priorities. With applications closing on 16 February 2024, this program represents a significant opportunity for industry bodies to enhance their support for SME innovation and growth. For more information or to apply, visit the Industry Growth Program website.

The Australian Government has launched the Industry Growth Program with a fund of $392.4 million, aiming to strengthen the nation’s manufacturing sector and foster innovation. Not-for-profit industry organisations are invited to apply for the Industry Partner Organisation (IPO) grants, offering between $500,000 and $2 million over two years. These grants are designed to support small to medium businesses by providing sector-specific advice, enhancing industry connections, and facilitating access to specialised facilities. In collaboration with the recently appointed Industry Growth Advisers, the program seeks to bolster innovative SMEs in their commercialisation efforts and business growth, aligning with the National Reconstruction Fund’s priorities.

 
Applications are open until 16 February 2024.

The Federal Government’s Industry Growth Program is now open for business, with businesses eligible for grants for early-stage commercialisation projects and commercialisation and growth projects

Stage one of the program invites start-ups and innovative small-to-medium businesses to apply for expert advice to support getting their ideas to market, including: commercialisation and growth strategies; funding avenues; market testing; business models; and building networks.

Stage two will focus on matched grant funding for SMEs which are operating in priority areas identified under the National Reconstruction Fund, namely: value-add in resources; value-add in agriculture, forestry and fisheries; transport; medical science; renewables and low-emissions technologies; defence capability; and enabling capabilities.

Once eligible businesses have completed stage one, they may be able to apply for grants of $50,000 to $250,000 to support early-stage commercialisation projects; and grants of $100,000 to $5 million for commercialisation and growth projects.

Under the program, an innovative product, process or service must be “new, unique or significantly different to any other previous product, process or service in the market or industry where the product is intended to be sold/traded”; or “involves significant enhancements or developments of current products, processes or services that will enable the business to scale and transform”.

Minor changes or improvements to existing products or services are not considered innovative.

Early-stage commercialisation projects are intended to include the journey from feasibility studies and the development of proof-of-concept through to the production and testing of early prototypes in a simulated or theoretical environment.

Commercialisation and growth projects, meanwhile, are intended to include those that can already demonstrate completion of feasibility studies and proof-of-concept. Projects are intended to include the journey of product, process or service development from early prototyping through to actual application in its final form, and the capability to scale up to full rate production and grow into new markets.

The program targets businesses beginning to, or with capacity to, scale as described above but does not include routine business growth.

Participating businesses may also apply for matched grant funding to undertake commercialisation and/or growth projects.

To be eligible, applicants must have a combined annual turnover of less than $20 million for each of the three financial years prior to the lodgement of the application; have an Australian business number (ABN); are non-income-tax-exempt; and are registered for the Goods and Services Tax (GST).

You must also be a company, incorporated in Australia; a co-operative; or an incorporated trustee applying on behalf of a trust.

Governments could help drive innovation and productivity growth by adding dynamic capabilities training to their business programs, new research by the Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA) has found.

Boosting dynamism: What Australia can learn from other nations looks at programs designed to improve the dynamic capabilities of businesses in New Zealand and Singapore, which have so far had promising results.

CEDA Senior Economist Melissa Wilson said firms in these programs expanded into new businesses, products and markets, adopted new and improved ways of working and increased collaboration and transformation.

“Evidence suggests firms with stronger dynamic capabilities are more productive, innovative and profitable, increasing their ability to survive and thrive in uncertain environments,” Ms Wilson said.

“The international programs we looked at show governments can provide dynamic-capabilities training that produces strong results.”

“Trialling similar programs in Australia would improve our understanding of the links between these capabilities, business performance and productivity growth.”

What happens within businesses matters for productivity. Over the past 30 years, labour productivity has contributed around 70 per cent of the growth in Australia’s real gross national income.

Yet trend productivity growth rates have been declining for decades, and more recently labour productivity has fallen to 2019 levels.

Recent CEDA research with the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) found that when the COVID-19 pandemic struck, the most dynamic firms innovated quickly, setting them up to be significantly more productive and profitable as the pandemic wore on.

This is consistent with evidence linking dynamic capabilities to improved productivity and performance, especially in highly competitive environments.

“Training leaders can have ripple effects and influence across the wider business ecosystem, but businesses often lack insight into their own management capabilities,” Ms Wilson said.

“Even if firms are aware and are motivated to become more dynamic, they don’t necessarily know how to do so.

“Governments could fill this gap, providing training that small businesses, in particular, would be unable to afford on their own.

“There is already a range of federal and state programs with significant resources and reach, such as the new federal Industry Growth Program.

“This training could be integrated into these programs with relatively little cost and potentially a large payoff.”

Australia has an enviable history of economic prosperity and high living standards, but productivity growth is at historically weak levels.

“We must boost productivity, innovation and resilience, even amid increasing global uncertainty, to ensure this success continues,” Ms Wilson said.

“Lifting the dynamic capabilities of Australian businesses could be a practical step towards the Federal Government’s ambition of building a more productive, dynamic and resilient economy.”

What are dynamic capabilities?

Firms with dynamic capabilities can:

  • Sense opportunities, threats and customer needs;
  • Seize opportunities to satisfy customers, shape markets and capture value; and
  • Transform themselves when renewal is needed.

This cycle of sensing, seizing and transforming is essential for ongoing viability and success in a constantly changing world.

Firms with these capabilities are more resilient, productive and profitable, enabling more innovative cultures.

“Australia’s productivity problem is clear. Now is the time to pursue all solutions at our disposal,” Ms Wilson said.

The Albanese Labor Government will continue to provide small businesses with targeted support as Australia heads into the new year.

Australia’s millions of small businesses are the engine room of our nation’s economy, but many continue to be affected by economic headwinds.

That’s why the Albanese Labor Government is providing them with the support they need to manage these challenges, and take advantage of the opportunities ahead of them, without adding to inflation.

This practical support includes:

  • opportunities to get smarter and safer online with the Digital Solutions Program, the Cyber Wardens Program and two new programs announced in the 2023-24 MYEFO, the cyber health check program and the Small Business Cyber Resilience Service;
  • helping start‑ups and small businesses to innovate, commercialise and grow their companies through the Industry Growth Program;
  • supporting small businesses in their energy transition with the Small Business Energy Incentive, which provides businesses with annual turnover of less than $50  million an additional 20 per cent deduction on eligible spending until 30 June 2024;
  • improving cash flow and reducing compliance costs for small businesses with an annual turnover of less than $10 million with the $20,000 instant asset write‑off, available until 30 June 2024;
  • improving payment times by committing more than $8 million to implement a range of initiatives that will deliver better outcomes for small businesses, as recommended in the independent Statutory Review of the Payment Times Reporting Act 2020.
  • supporting small business owners’ mental health and wellbeing through access to free specialised support services. The NewAccess for Small Business Owners program is being delivered by Beyond Blue, and the Small Business Debt Helpline by Financial Counselling Australia.

Australia’s innovation spirit is well and truly alive, and the government’s $392 million Industry Growth Program is a powerful tool to help it flourish. While the program’s broad scope and application criteria are still being finessed, its focus on boosting innovation and commercialisation has the potential to propel Australia’s industrial landscape forward.

Looking ahead, a more targeted approach aimed at technology-ready and management-ready small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) could further unlock Australia’s potential. Taking inspiration from Germany’s successful Mittelstand model, we can create a diverse and technologically sophisticated SME sector capable of producing high-quality goods in niche areas, maintaining manufacturing capabilities, and capturing a strong market share.

The government’s ambitious net zero goals, heavily reliant on the National Reconstruction Fund, also offer exciting opportunities. While questions about their economic feasibility exist, the focus on achieving net zero presents a chance for innovative and sustainable solutions to emerge. By fostering a collaborative environment and investing in cutting-edge technology, Australia can leverage this ambitious goal to become a global leader in clean energy and resource management.

Of course, achieving these ambitious goals will require a substantial reorientation of Australia’s industry policy. By focusing on addressing the country’s structural and skill deficiencies, supporting technology-ready and management-ready businesses, and carefully scrutinising the economic viability of the net zero goals, we can ensure Australia’s industry policy is grounded in reality and positioned for long-term success.

Open and honest discussions about the challenges and potential pitfalls are crucial for navigating a path towards a more innovative and prosperous Australia. By embracing the power of collaboration, open-mindedness, and a willingness to learn from others, we can turn these challenges into opportunities and ensure that Australia’s innovation spirit continues to shine brightly for generations to come.

Source

Today, as Australian small businesses are being smashed by cost pressures, the Albanese Government has claimed its Industry Growth Program is ‘open for business’.

Industry Minister Ed Husic has taken a break from freelancing on foreign policy to team up with Small Business Minister Julie Collins, to declare this new government initiative will ‘turbocharge innovation’, ‘back small business’ and that ‘the Albanese Government is supporting businesses to grow’.

It can be revealed that this rosy assessment made by two of Labor’s worst performers does not accord with the assessments made by their public servants behind the scenes.

The Government’s own analysis contained in an FOI’d Senate Estimates brief, states that:

  • Recently, Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) conditions have fallen further below the conditions for all businesses than at any other time recorded.
  • For the smallest SMEs (turnover between $2-3 million) the effect is even greater.
  • Almost three-quarters of SMEs continue to report significant difficulty finding suitable labour and cost pressures remain elevated. These economic circumstances are affecting conditions for SMEs more than their larger counterparts given their relatively higher operating costs and thinner margins.

Who are we to believe, two hapless ministers or their own public servants?

Irrespective of the spin in press releases from Labor Ministers, Australian small businesses are suffering in a ‘cost-of-doing-business-crisis’ and the Albanese Government is simply not doing the work to relieve the pressure.

Instead of taking strong action on power prices, easing supply chain disruptions and lowering the cost of doing business we see another taxpayer-funded grant program unlikely to be open for months and which most small businesses will not know about, nor have time to apply for.

What’s worse, as Australians get hammered by cost of living increases and interest rates rises, there are signs it will get even harder for small businesses.

The Visa Australia Spending Momentum Index (SMI) dropped by 1.4 points to 91.9 in October as consumers continued to respond to rising fuel costs, sticky inflation and high interest rates. According to Visa, 51 per cent of Australian cardholders reduced their spend last month compared to a year ago, the highest share recorded this year. The data suggests increased spending on petrol is having an impact and may be displacing spending in other categories. Critically, it also anticipates that elevated inflation and interest rates will further hit consumer spending, making it even harder for small businesses over coming months.

We do not need more Labor ministers backslapping, we need a proper plan on inflation and sound economic management.

Anthony Albanese is failing at every turn.

Joint media release with the Hon Julie Collins, Minister for Small Business.

The Albanese Government has officially opened the $392 million Industry Growth Program to help start-ups and small businesses commercialise and grow their companies. 

The opening of the program takes place as a new report finds that businesses in Australia often face barriers in scaling up.

The report from the Industry Innovation and Science Australia Board recommends the Government identify businesses with the need and risk appetite to innovate and deliver novel products and services.

The report also details ways Australia can take steps to translate its world class research performance into commercialisation outcomes, helping to grow a diverse economy while at the same time delivering well-paid jobs.

The Albanese Government is supporting businesses to grow. 

The Industry Growth Program includes: 

  • the delivery of advisory services by a national network of expert business growth and commercialisation advisers that will provide guidance on seeking investment, market testing, business models, and networking.
  •  the delivery of matched grant funding ranging from $50,000 to $5 million to eligible startups and innovative SMEs.

Supporting projects under National Reconstruction Fund priority areas, the Industry Growth Program will help expand the pipeline of businesses working to transform and diversify Australia’s economy. 

Businesses can apply for expert advice now by visiting www.business.gov.au, with grant funding opening in early 2024.

The report from Industry Innovation and Science Australia can be accessed here

Quotes attributable to the Hon Ed Husic, Minister for Industry and Science:

“The challenge for our economy long term is to scale-up our businesses and help them create more secure jobs.”

“The Industry Growth Program is designed to commercialise great ideas and know-how, build stronger, Australian businesses and put them on a pathway for potential support by the National Reconstruction Fund.

“Our government knows Australians want our country to be a nation that makes things, and we are determined to make that happen.”

Quotes attributable to the Hon Julie Collins, Minister for Small Business:

“Australia’s small businesses are known for their ingenuity and innovation – how adaptive, resilient and passionate they are.  The Industry Growth Program will help turbocharge this innovation.”

“This is good for jobs, good for our economy and good for Australia’s small businesses. This is another way our Government is backing Australia’s small businesses to succeed.”

Quotes attributable to Industry Innovation and Science Australia Chair, Mr Andrew Stevens:

“While we outperform in the creation of start-ups and small businesses against other OECD countries, our industry structure is overly skewed to small businesses with less than 20 employees. It’s hard to compete when you are small.”

“The outcome we need right now is the scaling of small businesses into medium sized businesses. This will build sovereign capability and economic complexity in Australia.

It’s been 18 months since applications opened for the third round of the Boosting Female Founders (BFF) grant program. During that time up to 700 applicants were sitting on matched funds — waiting to discover if they receive a slice of the $11.6 million reserved for this cohort. However according to recent correspondence, that wait may continue into 2024.

Launched by the Morrison government in 2020 and headed by the Department of Industry, Science and Resources (DISR), Boosting Female Founders offers startups that are majority-owned or led by women grants between $25,000 and $480,000 to assist in scaling up their business.

According to the program’s online portal, it aims to “help women entrepreneurs overcome the disadvantages faced in getting access to finance and support to grow their startups”.

One of the key aspects of the initiative is that it offers its successful startups matched funding. This means that all applicants must have access to already committed funds when applying for the grant.

This is why round three of BFF has become a serious issue — hundreds of women-led startups, which the government claims to want to help, had funds tied up while waiting for a decision to be made. For some of the applicants, this is to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

This number of startups now sitting on matched funding has now reportedly dropped after the second round of the application process opened in mid-2023. But some startups have still been left unhappy with the process.

“We found the whole program completely useless,” a source told SmartCompany under condition of anonymity.

“We had the matched funding. We were ready to go. We had planned for it to be organised in October last year – that was the deadline.”

“And then they put it off for six months and didn’t announce it. And by then we’d fallen below our expected runway and couldn’t match it anymore – certainly not at the $400-something [thousand] that we were going for.

“It made itself completely irrelevant to us within that six-month period.”

Now applicants will have to wait even longer.

In correspondence seen by SmartCompany, it was revealed that the decision-making deadline had been extended yet again.

“Unfortunately, there have been some delays which has held up the process and we envisage that final approval and contract negotiations will occur in December 2023 to early January 2024. If the process can be expedited, then we will be able to notify all applicants earlier,” one email read.

The department would not confirm an exact date directly with SmartCompany.

“Funding for Round 3 of the Boosting Female Founders (BFF) initiative was confirmed through the Government’s Spending Audit. All rounds of this initiative are delivered through a two-stage competitive selection process,” a spokesperson for the department said in an email to SmartCompany.

“Applications for stage two of Round 3 opened on 20 June 2023 and closed on 20 July 2023. The department is now undertaking the final stages of that selection process, with the outcomes expected to be announced by Government shortly.”

The significant delay of round three has also called into question the validity of the grant applicants

“A grant application done 18 months earlier, when you’re looking at a startup, is not worth is not worth the paper that it’s written on,” Michelle Fotheringham, founder and CEO of Werking, said in a call with SmartCompany.

Fotheringham was an applicant in round two of BFF but ultimately decided to go down the bootstrapping route.

“Where a startup is at month zero — or wherever it is that they are — plus 18 months later are two completely different stories.”

“Some of those businesses would have folded. Some of them would have accelerated and might not actually need the money anymore. Others might have completely changed direction. Plus the macro environment has changed so significantly over the past 18 months – the economy and interest rates.

“So to be able to assess an 18-month-old business application for anything sounds a little bit strange to me.”

SmartCompany asked the department about its process around this, but it did not go into specific details.

“The department undertakes due diligence on grant applicants, including throughout the assessment process,” as spokesperson said.

Boosting Female Founders delays, ‘poor’ communication and a data leak

Round three of Boosting Female Founders was opened in May 2022, with expressions of interest (EOI) closing in October of the same year. Shortlisted applicants were supposed to progress to the next round, with the grants themselves being rolled out from February 2023.

DISR informed applicants in late 2022 that round three had been delayed. In an email seen by SmartCompany, applicants were told this had been pushed out again to June 2023.

A DISR spokesperson told SmartCompany back in March that the delay was due to the federal Government Spending Audit which looked into pledges made by the Morrison government. This resulted in the redirection of $197.7 million in ‘uncommitted funding’ from the Entrepreneurs’ Program.

“The [Boosting Female Founders] Initiative was considered under the Audit and as a result, the delivery of Round Three has been delayed,” the spokesperson said to SmartCompany at the time.

The information regarding the latest December-January date push is yet to be officially sent to all round three applicants. But apparently, this is par for the course for the program.

Several applicants told SmartCompany on condition of anonymity that information tends to be drip-fed to those asking for updates through emails, phone calls and the messaging function on the fund’s online portal.

“They don’t communicate. They don’t tell you. I had to ring up several times to speak to different people to find out that actually it’s on hold,” one source said regarding the original delay in 2022.

According to another source, information was passed around unofficially through the community of applicants.

“We were trying to take every angle we could to get as much as information as possible. I was literally emailing them once a week,” they said.

“You get the official communication like six weeks after you’ve heard from 10 other people what’s going on.”

But this hasn’t been the only issue with communication.

In early November hundreds of applicants from various BFF rounds received an email from the department, asking them to complete a 15-20 minute feedback survey.

Recipients included a mixture of current applicants as well as those who had been successful and unsuccessful in previous rounds of the program.

Several of the applicants that SmartCompany spoke to found the survey to be in poor taste considering the round three delays.

The vitriol of some applicants was further exacerbated by the fact that the survey was sent with recipients cc’d in, exposing all of their email addresses.

“I assume I’m not the only applicant to have today received an email requesting feedback on the process, via a ‘15-20 minutes’ survey,” one applicant said to SmartCompany.

“Not only is this inappropriate seeing as no grant decisions have been communicated yet and are yet again delayed — we have all been sitting on matched funding since early 2022.

“But also, to add insult to injury, [the email] was sent and recalled no fewer than FIVE times.”

According to sources, the emails were sent and recalled all within a 70-minute period.

Boosting Female Founders has been wrought with problems for years

Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time that the program has been subject to controversy.

The eligibility criteria for the program was called into question while still being run by the Morrison government.

One startup was excluded due to the program attributing half of its equity to their husbands, who were not involved in the business.

Other founding teams with an even gender split also claimed to be excluded by outside investment from men muddied the gender-equity balance outlined in the program’s eligibility criteria.

Despite this, and rather ironically, some of the largest grants bestowed on startups in round two of the program had to be re-examined when allegations were levelled at them for not being majority female-founded or run. In some cases, they were said to have rejigged the structure to be eligible for the grant program.

Round two also had its own problems with communication. Back in July 2021, hundreds of applicants received an email congratulating them on successfully making it through the EOI stage of the program. Within hours it was retracted.

Is boosting female founders just government lip service at this point?

“The Coalition Government is committed to supporting women in the early stages of their entrepreneurial journey,” former Minister for Women, Kelly O’Dwyer, said when the BFF initiative was announced in 2018.

“Currently, businesses led by women find it more difficult to access finance than those led by men.

“We want to give them the best opportunity to succeed so that they can build financial security for themselves and their families, and grow the Australian economy.”

Five years on, the program has certainly dished out millions in grants to startups. But considering the consistent issues it has had across two governments, one could argue that in its current state it is not only failing to “boost” female founders, it’s actively hindering their success.

Forcing founders of early-stage startups to sit on matched funding — to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars in some cases — is significant, particularly across a 12 to 18 month period, depending on which stage an individual startup got it.

And this practice is certainly not what the department is out there preaching. In addition to spearheading the government’s Diversity in STEM Review — which aims to “recommend how the Australian Government can support change so that people can access and feel they belong within STEM education, careers and industries” — Minister for Industry and Science Ed Husic has been vocal about more money be afforded to women-led businesses.

“In the National Reconstruction Fund, when I talk about diversity, one of the things that we’re telling the fund to do is that they need to actually work with VCs to provide funds for female founders and people who usually find it hard to get that money. We will make that happen, too,” Minister Ed Husic said at a Startmate event in Sydney on October 19.

And yet here is Boosting Female Founders, under the stewardship of Minister Husic’s department, not only delaying access to grants but locking up funds. This has left these businesses with a choice to continue to sit on this funding or give up on the grant.

“We understand that your circumstances may have changed and if you no longer wish to continue with your application for this round, please contact the team… to withdraw your application,” an email sent to applicants in March said.

“I think it’s appalling. And the irony is that whenever we look at the lack of funding for female founders, and it is an egregiously low number, the reason given is always the low pool of female founders,” an applicant said to SmartCompany.

According to the source, there are rumours of DISR being inundated with applications which is contributing to the long delays.

“And yet, the reason why [women] are so underfunded is because there’s not enough of us. So which one is it?”

What is clear is the consistent issues and continued delays with the program have left a sour taste in the mouths of the women the program claims to champion.

“It’s an incredible sense of being let down and being under-supported. Then there’s the fact that it’s hindering our progress. It’s not just about not being able to get funding. It’s that it is causing us problems,” one source said regarding the matched funding.

Another said that Boosting Female Founders is doing little to nothing to help actual innovation by women in Australia.

“I’ve not heard anyone say a good word about that whole system. And these are all of the most innovative female founders in the country,” said another.

“I mentor a bunch of founders and I would never suggest that any of them include this in their plans. I would never even suggest that they waste their time on this.”

 

The Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA) has unveiled a white paper detailing 14 recommendations, urging the government to measure its extensive tech carbon footprint. The objective is to drive energy-efficient shifts and harness technology for growth and exports, all while aligning with Australia’s 2050 net-zero target.

The government’s yearly ICT spending of $8 billion to $10 billion holds significant market influence. CEO Simon Bush underscores the significance of recording and reducing tech emissions, enabling informed choices like transitioning to efficient data centres and cloud solutions. The white paper also proposes integrating Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) incentives and a green R&D tax incentive for eco-friendly innovation.

Positioning Australia as a data processing hub, utilising new fibre cables and energy-efficient centres, could facilitate data export and ecological advancement. Furthermore, the Industry Growth Program’s funding of $392 million could prioritize startups in renewable and low emissions technology, reinforcing technology’s pivotal role in sustainable growth. Collaborations with Pacific Islands for eco-friendly tech adoption also gain endorsement, spotlighting technology’s pivotal part in realizing carbon reduction objectives and a sustainable future.

Source

FAQ

The Industry Growth Program is a government initiative offering advisory services and grant funding to support innovative commercialisation and growth projects in Australia.

Innovative small and medium enterprises (SMEs) with projects in the National Reconstruction Fund priority areas are eligible to apply.

The program funds innovative projects that involve new or significantly enhanced products, processes, or services, focusing on commercialisation and market growth.

Eligible projects can receive grants ranging from $50,000 to $5 million, depending on the project stage and scope.

Yes, industries like advanced manufacturing, digital technology, biotechnology, renewable energy, environmental technologies, and health sciences are targeted.

TRLs are a measure of a project’s maturity, ranging from concept (TRL3) to market-ready (TRL9), used to assess eligibility for the program.

The program supports early-stage projects from feasibility studies to early prototyping, helping validate their commercial potential.

Yes, the program offers support for projects focused on scaling up production and expanding into new markets.

Applicants can apply anytime, starting with connecting to an adviser for tailored advice, followed by potential grant application.

At Bulletpoint, we specialize in guiding businesses through the application process, ensuring they maximize their chances of securing funding. Contact us for expert assistance.

Myths and Misconceptions

A common misconception is that the Industry Growth Program is exclusively for big businesses. In reality, it’s specifically designed for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) looking to innovate and grow.

While technology projects are eligible, the program is not limited to them. It supports a broad range of industries, including manufacturing, biotech, renewable energy, and more.

Many believe that applying for government funding is always a cumbersome process. However, the Industry Growth Program offers advisory services to guide applicants, making the process more accessible.

It’s not just about new products; the program also funds significant enhancements or developments of existing products, processes, or services that lead to business transformation.

Unlike loans, the grants provided under the Industry Growth Program do not need to be repaid, provided the funds are used in accordance with the grant agreement terms.

What is the #1 grant for start-ups?

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