Federal government grants for your small business

Government grants are one of the best untapped resources to help your business overcome one of its biggest challenges: cash flow.

But recent research from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development found large enterprises in Australia were more likely to receive some form of government support for innovation.

While it is almost certainly easier for large companies to access funding, applying for available government grants is a great way for SMEs to get their hands on a bigger slice of the government funding pie.

Some federal grants programs have been around for a number of years, such as the Export Market Development Grant, others such as the Entrepreneurs’ Infrastructure Fund are still in their infant stages.

Here’s SmartCompany’s list of some of the best federal grants to help you on your way. Tomorrow we’ll have a list of the best state-based grants. We haven’t covered everything that’s out there but this list should set you on the right path.

Entrepreneurs’ Infrastructure Programme

One of the big changes this year is the replacement of Commercialisation Australia and the Innovation Investment Fund with the Entrepreneurs’ Infrastructure Programme, announced in the May budget.

Commercialisation Australia previously provided grants of between $50,000 to $2 million for businesses to develop technology and other products to make them commercially viable. During its lifetime, the program invested more than $213 million in 503 companies and was responsible for helping a number of Australian success stories like Seek.com.

But in May, the government said it would replace the program, as well as the Innovation Investment Fund, with a single business service, which will supply $484.2 million over five years.

The program essentially has three streams: Business Management, Research Connections and Commercialising Ideas.

The Business Management stream is currently the only one open for applications. Businesses are able to register for a Business Evaluation assessment to take place at their premises, and based on the findings, apply for a Business Growth Grant, which can be used to bring in experts to help them implement the recommendations made in the assessment.

The grants can be used to reimburse a business for up to half the cost of engaging external consultants and are capped at $20,000. Applications must be made within six months of undertaking a business evaluation and more information is available here.

The other two streams of the Entrepreneurs’ Infrastructure Programme—Research Connections and Commercialising Ideas—are not yet available.

Export Market Development Grant

The Export Market Development Grant is an oldie but a goodie for small businesses who export their goods and services.

Despite the government’s Commission of Audit recommending the scheme be scrapped earlier this year, the grants are still available and the total value of the scheme received a $50 million boost in the government’s mid-year economic and fiscal outlook in December 2013.

The scheme operates more like an incentive for exporters, as opposed to a straight up cash grant, with recipients required to spend their own funds first before applying for reimbursement from the government.

SMEs can be reimbursed up to 50% of their eligible export promotion expenses above $5000 and provided that total expenses are at least $15,000. The maximum amount a business can receive in its initial payment is $60,000.

Exporters have until Monday, December 1 to apply for this year’s grants. More information is available here.

Research & Development tax incentive

For businesses that can satisfy the eligibility requirements of the government’s Research & Development tax incentive, the benefit is immense.

Businesses of all sizes can participate in the program, but the offsets have changed this year.

Businesses making under $20 million could previously receive a 45% refundable tax offset, but as of July 1, this rate has dropped to 43.5%. Likewise, the non-refundable offset for bigger businesses has also been cut, from 40% to 38.5%

The changes apply to company’s income years commencing on or after July 1, 2014, with existing arrangements to remain in place for income before this time.

There are a number of steps involved in claiming the R&D Incentive, but it’s important to know the cut-off points. Companies with a non-standard income year of January 1-December 31, 2013, must register their R&D activities with AusIndustry by October 30, 2014. Companies with a standard income year of July 1, 2013 to June 30, 2014, have until April 30, 2015.

Further details are available here.

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