In response to the calls of startup founders for more funding, the Australian Government has announced a $393.4 million commitment to establish a new Industry Growth Program. This initiative aims to support Australian startups and small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs) in commercialising their ideas and grow.
The funding will be distributed over four years, with an additional $79.2 million allocated for each subsequent year. Minister for Industry and Science, Ed Husic, emphasised that the program would help emerging businesses become significant employers in the future, providing them with investment and advice to transition from innovative ideas to concrete business plans and growing enterprises.
The Industry Growth Program will offer grants and mentorship, targeting businesses operating within the priority areas of the $15 billion National Reconstruction Fund. Minister Husic explained that this end-to-end approach would maximise returns on taxpayers' investments and create a clear pathway for Australian entrepreneurs to develop thriving businesses within the country rather than abroad.
In conjunction with the National Quantum Strategy announced last week, the budget papers revealed a $101 million investment into the responsible development of AI and quantum industries in Australia. This funding will work in tandem with the Industry Growth Program to foster innovation and growth in these cutting-edge sectors.
Additionally, $39.6 million over four years will be allocated to continue the Single Business Service, which aids SMEs in engaging with the government. This measure represents a repurposing and expansion of the Entrepreneurs' Programme's previous funding, further offset by funds redirected from the Industry, Science and Resources portfolio.
Grants of $50,000 to $250,000 to support early-stage commercialisation projects
grants of $100,000 to $5 million for commercialisation and growth projects.
Industry Growth Program Grants will open in 2024.
Advisory Service now open
The Industry Growth Program will support innovative small and medium enterprises undertaking commercialisation and/or growth projects within the National Reconstruction Fund (NRF) priority areas. Participating businesses will have access to Advisory Services to help them overcome significant challenges that may be associated with their projects. Under the program:
An innovative product, process or service:
- is 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. Testing should validate the commercial viability of the innovative product, process or service. Various scales are typically referenced to demonstrate technology readiness or market readiness, with one example commonly referenced being Technology Readiness Levels (TRLs). As a guide, early-stage commercialisation grant projects are intended to broadly include the journey through TRL3 to TRL6.
Commercialisation and growth projects 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. Various scales are typically referenced to demonstrate technology readiness or market readiness, with one example commonly referenced being Technology Readiness Levels (TRLs). As a guide, commercialisation and growth grant projects are intended to broadly include the journey through TRL4 to TRL9.
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.
The program will complement the NRF’s mission to drive investment in projects that develop Australia’s industry capability, helping to transform Australia’s industry and economy.
Priority funding areas
The Australian Government’s priority areas for the National Reconstruction Fund and Industry Growth Program:
value-add in resources
value-add in agriculture, forestry and fisheries
renewables and low emissions technologies
You can apply if you:
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.
The Labor Government's commitment to the Industry Growth Program signifies a significant step forward in supporting Australia's flourishing startup ecosystem. By providing funding, mentorship, and support, the program aims to create an environment in which entrepreneurs can transform their ideas into successful businesses, ultimately contributing to the country's economic growth and global competitiveness.
Furthermore, the program's alignment with the National Quantum Strategy and investments in AI and quantum industries highlights the government's dedication to fostering innovation in emerging, high-potential sectors. This focus on cutting-edge industries is essential to ensure Australia remains at the forefront of technological advancements and can compete on the international stage.
However, the program's success will depend on its implementation and the effectiveness of its support mechanisms. Ensuring that funding reaches the intended recipients that being Australian Startups and that the grants provided are relevant and beneficial will be crucial in achieving the program's goals. In addition to this, the application process must be simplified compared to the Entrepreneurs Program which has been criticised by many that have been through the painful and slow process. The government must also continue to assess and adapt the program to the ever-evolving needs of startups and SMEs to maximise its impact.
Overall, the Industry Growth Program represents a promising investment in Australia's entrepreneurial ecosystem, with the potential to drive significant innovation, job creation, and economic growth in the years to come.
Haines Consulting Group is a management consultancy firm specialising in business strategy, growth, government grants and new venture developments. If you need any assistance with a grant submission please contact us now for a confidential conversation.