Government lifts freeze on clean tech programs but at what cost?

The Federal Government has resumed its Clean Technology Investment Programs following a two-month freeze, but there are fears that the pause will have had a negative impact on prospective grant recipients.

As part of its Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook, the government has confirmed its Clean Technology Investment Programs will resume following a grants freeze imposed in late August.

In February, the government launched the $800 million Clean Technology Investment Program and the $200 million Clean Technology Food and Foundries Investment Program.

These programs, which aim to help manufacturers, are part of the government’s Clean Energy Future initiative.

At the time, Industry and Innovation Minister Greg Combet said the programs “demonstrate the Gillard government’s commitment to Australian manufacturing”.

But in August, it was revealed the government was clamping down on grants, with Cabinet ministers urged to find savings to deliver a bigger surplus.

In September, the chief executive of Commercialisation Australia confirmed no new grants were being written, while a separate report confirmed the clean tech programs had also been halted.

While the government has now resumed its Clean Technology Investment Programs, Australian Industry Group believes the freeze will have done some damage.

“Our members will welcome the resumption of the very important Clean Technology Investment Programs,” AIG chief executive Innes Willox said yesterday.

“[But] the pause in approving these grants had come at a cost to business and had undermined confidence in the scheme.”

“Ai Group will work with the government to ensure… changes to grant programs and apprentice incentives have as little adverse impact as possible.”

In September, Adrian Spencer, chief executive of grant consultant firm GrantReady, warned there would be a price to pay for imposing a freeze on grants.

“By ripping up a few grant programs or key funds is just robbing Peter to pay Paul,” he said.

“I think it will have a detrimental effect where critical funding is needed – especially at a time when small business is really under supported.”

“A review of grants simply to save money would have unfortunate consequences.”

This article first appeared on StartupSmart.

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