How to Get More Funding with Australian Small Business Grants

Both the federal and state/territorial governments offer assistance to entrepreneurs launching or running small businesses. It is worth checking to see if there are funding opportunities available. Be aware that there can be a lot of competition for these funds. It’s therefore important to put forward as strong an application as you can.

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal, personal, or tax advice. The information contained herein is subject to change and may vary from time to time. For specific advice applicable to your business, please contact a professional.

Small businesses are crucial to Australia’s economic health. Both the federal and the state/territorial governments recognise this. They also recognise that it can be very challenging for small businesses to access funding, especially if they’re newly established. That’s why both the federal and state/territorial governments offer grants to help small businesses get going and stay on their feet.

Here is a quick guide to the main federal grants programs, along with key assistance programs in different states/territories. For clarity, these schemes are entirely distinct from the COVID-19 support that has been made available to businesses.

Federal grants programs

As these programs are essentially funded by taxpayers, all require you to be registered for tax. This means you need an Australian Business Number or an Australian Companies Number.

The Entrepreneur’s Program

The Entrepreneur’s Program is an all-round toolkit for entrepreneurs. It does include a funding element. This is known as the Accelerating Commercialisation Service. The ACS is available to ‘Businesses, start-ups and researchers who have a novel product, process or service ready to scale up and commercialise in global markets’.

To be considered ‘novel’, the product, process or service must be “a genuine innovation with evidence of a compelling value proposition, backed-up by market demand”. It should be “significantly different” to anything that is available already. It should also be difficult to replicate without significant research and development.

If you are applying as a business (as opposed to a research entity), you must meet the following criteria.

  • Have an annual turnover of less than $20 million for the last 3 financial years combined.

  • Not be registered as tax-exempt

  • Be registered for GST

You have to go through a guidance stage before you can apply for funding. If accepted, Research Commercialisation Entities and Eligible Partner Entities can receive up to $500K. All other entities can receive up to $1M. The minimum funding level is $50K. Funds may be issued over 12 months or 2 years.

Grants only cover up to 50% of the cost of the project. You must be able to show that you can fund the rest by other means.

Australian Landing Pad

This program is for Australian businesses that want to branch out overseas. The core of the program is essentially a paid residency in a location overseas. During this residency, you work with an adviser. Together, you come up with a plan to expand the Australian business into that area.

The ALP program itself does not provide direct funding. It may help you access funding from other sources. In particular, if you are eligible for the ALP program, you have a high chance of being eligible for the Export Market Development Grants (EMDG).

Australian Apprenticeship Incentives Program: AAIP

The Australian Apprenticeship Incentives Program is not exclusive to small businesses but can be accessed by them. In short, it provides funding if you provide training for apprentices. This training has to be at Diploma, Certificate II, III, IV, or Advanced Diploma level. Funding levels range from $750 to $4K annually.

CSIRO - CSIRO Kick-Start Grant

The CSIRO Kick-Start Grant aims to support small businesses in research and development (R&D) projects. The grant provides between $20K and $100K of funding, delivered in two rounds over the course of a year.

The program is aimed at start ups and small businesses. The eligibility criteria are:

  • <$1.5M in turnover OR < 3 years trading

  • Have an ACN/ICN AND be registered for GST.

As with the Accelerating Commercialisation Service, the CSIRO Kick-Start Grant funds up to 50% of an R&D project. You must show that you can pay the rest by other means. You can apply for two rounds of funding (e.g. for assistance with two projects). You must, however, complete the first project before applying for the second grant.

State/territorial assistance programs

Most of the state/territorial programs are also in the form of non-repayable grants. A few are in the form of low-cost loans. Again, all of these schemes are distinct from the COVID-19 financial-relief schemes.

How to apply for grant schemes

Each grant scheme has its own criteria and application process. Here are some application tips that apply to all schemes.

Check the eligibility criteria

Just being a small business is unlikely to be enough to qualify for a small business grant. Most programs are created to address more specific financial pain points, such as meeting the costs of R&D or moving into exports. You may find it helpful to use a grant-funding tool to look for a program that meets your needs.

Check the application process

Check out when applications are accepted. Some schemes have a specific window for accepting applications. Others are open for applications all year round. In some cases, there can be a significant potential catch here.

Many support schemes are given an annual funding allowance for their grants. These grants are typically awarded on a first-come-first-served basis (assuming eligibility). This means that the best time to apply for these schemes is immediately after the awarding body has received a round of funds. If you wait until later in the year, you may find that the funds have been exhausted.

You also need to know what the application consists of. If you need to prepare anything to apply for it (e.g. financial statements), have this ready just before the (effective) application window opens. If you are applying to a scheme that co-funds projects, be sure to have secure funding in place for the rest of the cost before you apply.

Write individual applications

If you’re applying for multiple business grants, you’ll probably be answering the same questions multiple times. The core answers you give to these questions are likely to be similar on each application. Even so, resist the temptation to recycle your answers word for word.

At a minimum, remove any references to other awarding bodies. While it’s unlikely to be against the rules for you to apply to multiple programs, there is a risk that you will be passed over for one program because you look like you’re guaranteed to receive assistance elsewhere. Also, be sure to follow formatting instructions and writing guidelines. If there are none, make sure your application is easy to read and your language is professional.

If at all possible, customise your application so that it’s specific to the scheme for which you’re applying. You’ll be up against a lot of competition, so anything you can do to make your application stand out favourably is definitely worth trying.

Useful resources

The government’s grant finder.

Find information on starting a business in Australia.

The Grants Hub is a directory of grants, including grants for businesses. You have to register for access but you get 14 days for free.


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