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Top five small business grants

Category Business


Free money from the government – it sounds just too good to be true. Yet every year, more than $5 billion is doled out to the private sector by Australian federal, state and local governments, including many small business grants. With billions more dollars in grants never claimed, there is plenty of cheap capital available, albeit with certain strings attached. Here’s the top 5: 

The federal government’s website,, currently lists nearly 550 different types of government grants and assistance, ranging from support for micro-businesses to help for exporters and clean energy grants.

The following are five grants that you may not have heard about, but which are well worth pursuing:

1.     Commercialisation Australia

Open to all businesses, this federal government scheme seeks to support the commercialisation of intellectual property (IP). Participants work with a case manager to assist them through the commercialisation process, with successful applicants linked to an ‘Expert Network’ of past achievers.

Four different grants are provided:

  • Skills and Knowledge: Up to $50,000 to access specialist advice and services.
  • Experienced Executives: Up to $350,000 to engage a chief executive or other senior executive.
  • Proof of Concept: $50,000 to $250,000 to prove the commercial viability of new IP.
  • Early Stage Commercialisation: $50,000 to $2 million to take a new product, service or process to market.

2.     Export Market Development Grant

Run by Austrade, the Export Market Development Grant (EMDG) scheme aims to assist aspiring or current small to medium-sized business exporters.

Applicants must have income below $50 million in the grant year and have incurred at least $20,000 of eligible expenses, including the export of goods, services or intellectual property (IP), inbound tourism or events held in Australia with an international audience.

The EMDG reimburses up to 50 per cent of eligible export promotion expenses above $10,000, provided that total expenses amount to at least $20,000. Total government spending on the scheme amounts to $150 million a year.

3.     R&D Tax Incentive

Administered by AusIndustry, the R&D Tax Incentive aims to assist firms of all sizes offset the costs of research and development.

The scheme has two core components:

  • 45 per cent refundable tax offset (equivalent to a 150 per cent tax deduction) to eligible entities with annual turnover below $20 million.
  • 40 per cent non-refundable tax offset (equivalent to a 133 per cent deduction) to all other eligible entities.

According to federal industry minister Greg Combet, Australian SMEs received around $500 million in direct payments during the first six months of the new scheme, which replaced the former R&D Tax Concession.

4.     Clean Technology Programs

Launched as part of the carbon tax, the federal government has allocated $1.2 billion towards the Clean Technology Program to assist businesses in remaining competitive.

Some $800 million of grants are available for manufacturers under the Clean Technology Investment Program, with another $200 million for food and foundry manufacturers, supporting investments in energy-efficient equipment and technologies.

Grants range from $25,000 to more than $10 million, with funding varying according to project size and applicant turnover.

The Clean Technology Innovation Program aids the commercialisation of clean technology, processes and services, with grants of between $50,000 and $5 million on a dollar-for-dollar basis.

5.     Apprentice Kickstart Initiative

Businesses with less than 200 employees in the building, construction and engineering industries can obtain subsidies for apprentices under the Apprentice Kickstart Initiative.

The $57.5 million scheme aims to attract an additional 21,000 apprentices, ranging from electricians to signwriters and welders.

Payments of $3350 are on offer to those employing new apprentices before the end of February 2013, on top of the $1500 paid for each commencement.

With so much government assistance on offer, small businesses are spoilt for choice, so it might be worthwhile seeking expert advice to find a path through the grant maze.

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