30 government grants to grow your business
It's tough to get money at the moment. The venture capital funds have shut up shop, the sharemarket is shying away from IPOs, the banks have backed away and the angel investors have had their wings clipped.
But there is one source of cash that's always willing to back SMEs - the government.
There are hundreds of business grants available across Australia's federal, state and territory governments, and while the process of getting a grant isn't always easy - we'll explain the best way to get a government grant later this week - the rewards are well worth it, particularly in this economic environment.
So without further ado, here are some of the best government grants for SMEs.
There are number of incentives to encourage employers to take on apprentices, starting from $1,250 and going up to around $4,000 in certain circumstances (such as taking on an apprentice in a high-demand area such as engineering). There are also extra incentives for taking on school age, mature age and rural apprentices.
Website: Australian Apprenticeships
One of the most popular grants for technology-focussed SMEs is the Commercialising Emerging Technologies (or COMET) grant. The grant, aimed at companies with less than $8 million in revenue over the two previous years (and not more than $5 million in either year) can be used for items such as strategic planning and advice, intellectual property advice, market research and development of prototypes.
Funding is in a two-tier system. Up to $64,000 (exclusive of GST) is available under tier one (at a rate of 80% of the eligible expenditure). If "commercial progress" is made on tier two activities, grants of up to an additional $56,000 are available (at a rate of 50% of eligible expenditure).
There are a variety of grants available to help Australian exporters. The most popular is the export market development grants, which helps exporters with the cost of marketing expenses such as travel, marketing consultants, communications, free samples, trade fairs and overseas representatives. Up to 50% of these expenses can be reimbursed.
The funding for the scheme has increased this year by $50 million, which means the grant is even easier to get and more generous. The maximum grant available has increased by $50,000 to $200,000, while the maximum turnover limit for eligible businesses has been lifted from $30 million to $50 million. The minimum amount you need to spend to get the grant has been cut by $5,000 to $10,000.
Other handy assistance for exporters include Export Finance Guarantees (which provide an indemnity to lenders to lend directly to overseas buyers, thereby helping customers of Australian exporters) and Bonding Facilities (these are available for exporter whose export contracts require a contract bond).
Website: Export Market Development Grant
Flexible work arrangements
A relatively new grant for small businesses (those with less than 15 employees) is the Fresh Ideas for Work and Family grant. Small businesses can get grants of $5,000 to $15,000 to set up family-friendly working arrangements, such as family-friendly rosters, special rooms for kids to come and visit, establishing part-time or job share arrangements or setting up workplace mentoring programs.
Under the new Fair Work IR regime, employees have the right to request flexible work arrangements - these grants could help you put these arrangements in place.
Website: Fresh Idea for Work and Family
The Government's R&D tax incentives are undergoing a makeover at the moment, with a tax credit scheme set to replace the existing R&D tax concession from 1 July, 2010.
So for the moment, you can still access the R&D tax concession, which allows a company to deduct 125% of the amount spent on eligible R&D expenses from its corporate tax bill. There is also a 175% deduction for companies that increase their R&D spending over three years, subject to certain criteria.
Details on the R&D tax credit scheme are sketchy at the moment, but we know a few of the key points. For small firms with turnover less than $20 million, there is a 45% refundable tax credit (the equivalent to a 150% concession). For companies with turnover of more than $20 million, there's a 40% tax credit (the equivalent of a 133% deduction) to be provided to foreign-owned firms, and firms with a turnover of more than $20 million per annum. The Government says that because the credit scheme is decoupled from corporate tax, it will provide a greater level of certainty.
One of the biggest growth areas for grants and assistance programs is climate change. The Government's Clean Business Australian program had three separate schemes: Climate Ready (which is now closed), the Re-Tooling for Climate Change scheme and the Green Building Fund.
The re-tooling scheme provides grants of between $10,000 and $500,000, up to a maximum of half of the cost of each project. Eligible businesses must have turnover less than $100 million.
The building fund is aimed at owners of existing commercial office buildings and encourages retro-fitting and retro-commissioning of these buildings. Grants ranging from $50,000 to $500,000 are available, for up to 50% of project costs.
Fuel tax credits
Up until the start of 2008-9, fuel tax credits were only available to some very specific groups, including trucking companies and agribusinesses. But the eligibility requirements have been widened significantly and fuel tax credits are available for fuel used in a huge range of equipment, from leaf blowers and whipper snippers through to backhoes and bulldozers. Head to the ATO site to check your edibility.
Website: Fuel tax credits for business
There is a huge variety of grants available for agribusinesses - everything from drought assistance to grants for farmers to leave the land. A number of assistance measures are also available for agribusinesses that strike "exceptional circumstances" such as unfavorable weather conditions, and there are also grants available to help farmers implement measures designed to deal with carbon pollution reduction.
The manufacturing sector is one of the biggest recipients of Government support. There are specific programs for the automotive industry and the textiles, clothing and footwear sector, as well as more general schemes. For example, the Certain Inputs to Manufacture scheme provides import duty concessions on certain imported raw materials and intermediate goods such as chemical, plastics or paper goods.
Website: AusIndustry's manufacturing page
The TQUAL grant scheme provides assistance for tourism operators. The grant scheme open to businesses provides grants of between $5,000 and $10,000 for companies that develop "innovative tourism projects". There are grants available for the research, planning and implementation stages of the project.
Website: TQUAL Grants
State and Territory:
Australian Capital Territory
- The Canberra Business Development Fund is a venture capital fund that provides companies located in the Canberra region with a source of capital funds through equity investment.
New South Wales
- The Payroll Tax Incentive Scheme provides payroll tax concessions to encourage new and existing businesses to establish and grow in locations where unemployment is above the state average.
- The Safety Solutions Rebate Program offers small business owners and sole traders up to $500 for identifying and implementing safety solutions in the workplace.
- The State Government's BioBusiness Program includes a range of assistance schemes, including pitch and presentation training for would-be companies and grants for high-growth businesses.
- The Regional Economic Development Fund provides grants of up to $25,000 and is available to any business than can help deliver "positive regional economic development outcomes" in the Territory.
- The Business and Industry Transformation Incentives offers grants of $30,000 to $250,000 to companies that come up with a "project" (this could mean a new product, a R&D program or even a new process that improves productivity) that can help "transform" Queensland's key sectors, such as aviation, biotechnology, IT, tourism and processed foods.
- The Research-Industry Partnerships Program provides grants of $200,000 to $1 million over one to three years to fund research projects between industry and research organisations.
- The Bio Innovation SA Grants provide grants from $50,000 to $250,000 to assist South Australian biotechnology companies to do everything from market research and business development to purchasing equipment.
- The Trainee Wage Pay-roll Tax Rebate Scheme provides pay-roll tax rebates encourage small businesses to employ trainees or apprentices.
- The Enterprise Growth Program provides grants of up to $50,000 to help eligible Tasmanian businesses to identify, evaluate and invest in projects or activities which will help them grow.
- The Tasmanian Industry Support Scheme provides short-term loans for companies which are otherwise at risk of closure or significant downsizing as a result of the downturn.
- The Tasmanian Innovations Program provides grants of up to $150,000 to cover the direct costs incurred by a company to commercialise a product or service.
- The First Step Exporter program provides grants of up to $10,000 to help small businesses enter their first export market.
- The Grow Your Business program provides assistance and grants to help companies put together a business plan, conduct a strategic review, development management skills and put together networks, such as suppliers and innovation networks.
- The Smart SMEs Market Validation Program is a competitive grants program designed to help SMEs design products, processes and services to help meet the future technology needs of Victorian public sector entities. Grants of up to $1.5 million are available.
- The Small Business Smart Business program provides up to $200 towards the cost of any form of training that will help to improve the productivity of a Western Australian small business.
- The City of Perth Small Business grants provide up to $2,000 for start-up costs, expansion expenses, equipment or other small business costs.