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Growing a business

Small business grants

Top 3 grants resources 2019


Need some funds to take flight?

Before you start applying for a business loan and taking on debt, you can look for other ways to raise or save money and resources. There are a number of nationally available grants, schemes and concessions that may apply to your business.

This guide outlines some of the most relevant grants available in Australia today for small businesses.

What are small business grants?

Small business grants are essentially seed money that you don’t have to pay back.

They can take various forms and offer benefits other than money too, like in-kind support or tax concessions. Some programs might also offer business loans at more favourable rates.

Government, interest groups and corporations have a number of schemes that you can apply for which provide much needed capital, expertise or concessions that can take your business to the next level without burdening you with crippling debt.

The Federal government alone offers hundreds of grants and concessions to support small businesses. There are also more local options with state governments and interest organisations.

How to get a small business grant

Applying for a grant requires paperwork similar to that needed for loan applications. Often you will need business plans, financial statements, budgets and forecasts. Unlike a loan, you won’t be assessed on your capacity to repay, but rather whether your business is likely to succeed with the funding.

Grant programmes outline criteria you need to meet in order to get a grant. For example, certain grants are industry specific, like for agriculture or food businesses. Others are for a specific purpose, like research and development, or staffing. Grants can also be applicant specific, for example, for new businesses, indigenous applicants or tech start-ups. Often applicant businesses will have to demonstrate a threshold turnover or income range to qualify.

In assessing whether you should apply for a grant, firstly you’ll have to check whether you meet the specific eligibility criteria for the grant. If so, you can get your financial paperwork together and start applying. Application processes vary. While you often need to submit a thorough written application, often the process may start with an introductory phone call or a registration of interest form.

Let’s look at some grants that are available nationally, including what you require to qualify, and how you apply as per November, 2019. Like the sound of something? Follow the links, for more detailed information.

National grants

Entrepreneur’s Programme

What is it?

The Entrepreneur’s Programme is a Federal Government business scheme to encourage competitiveness, productivity and accelerate the commercialisation of new ideas. It consists of four sub-programme categories to help SMEs grow and compete in new markets – Accelerating Commercialisation, Business Evaluation, Business Growth and Innovation Connections.

It covers both facilitation services (in-kind support and concessions) and grants and is for early stage entrepreneurs.

How much does it grant?

What you receive in this programme depends on which sub-programme you apply to. For example;

  • Accelerating Commercialisation offers matched funding up to $1 million for commercialisation costs
  • Business Evaluation can offer free advice, up to 12 months mentoring and access to R&D
  • The Innovation Connections programme can offer up to $50,000 in matching funding support

Who can apply?

There are various eligibility criteria across the different sub-programmes. To summarize them briefly;

Accelerating Commercialisation – you must have a product, process or service you want to commercialize. You need to either have a registered company or be an individual who agrees to form a company.

Business Evaluation, Supply Chain Facilitation, Growth Services – you must be an Australian incorporated company and have an annual turnover over the past 1-2 years of over $1.5 million.

Business Growth Grants – you must have done an Entrepreneur’s Programme Business ManagementAdvice or Facilitation Service first. You should then have a completed plan from that programme from the last 12 months, and your project must have at least $5000 in eligible expenditure.

Innovation Connections – you must be an Australian GST registered company operating in Australia for at least 3 consecutive years with an annual turnover over $1.5 million.

How to apply?

The sub-programs have different application procedures.

Accelerating Commercialisation – the first step is to lodge an expression of interest . You may then continue onto a second stage of Commercialisation Guidance and then proceed to an application. Applicants need to show they can fund at least 50% of the cost of the project. Your application will need to discuss your need for funding, market opportunity, value proposition, execution plan, management capability and national benefits.

Business EvaluationSupply Chain FacilitationGrowth ServicesBusiness Growth Grants – You make an application through an online portal addressing all eligibility criteria.

Innovation Connections – You need to contact an Innovation Facilitator in your state or territory if you are applying for facilitation services. If you’re applying for money, you first need to obtain an Innovation Facilitation Report and then apply online.

Grow Your Business with QuickBooks

Export Market Development Grant

What is it?

This grant is for exporters and aims to help Australian companies get more exposure to international markets.

In April, the government announced that funding to the scheme will increase by $60 million over the next 3 years.

How much does it grant?

If you have spent $15,000 or more on export promotional activities, you can apply for reimbursement for 50% of the costs, to a maximum of $150,000.

Who can apply?

Your business can apply if;

  • your total turnover is $50 million or less
  • you are promoting products internationally
  • you have spent at least $15,000 on export promotional activities over the past year or two
  • your ‘product’ is ‘benefitting Australia’

How to apply?

You need to first review their eligibility checklist and then complete an application online. The application will include attaching your financial documentation and you first need an AUSkey electronic key to submit your application online.

R&D Tax Incentive

What is it?

This scheme offers a tax offset for eligible research and development activities.

The purpose of the scheme is to encourage business innovation which benefits Australia.

How much does it grant?

The scheme offers a 43.5% refundable tax offset against R&D expenditure, up to $100 million for companies with a turnover of less than $20 million.

A 38.5% non-refundable tax offset is available to other eligible companies.

Who can apply?

To apply you need to be;

  • An incorporated company
  • A business that has conducted eligible core R&D activities
  • A company which has spent at least 20,000 AUD on R&D

How to apply?

If you are eligible, you register your R&D activities with the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science prior to lodging your company income tax return.

Certain Inputs to Manufacture Programme

What is it?

This scheme is to support Australian manufacturers and offers import duty concessions to businesses that buy raw materials from offshore vendors.

How much does it grant?

This scheme grants concessions on eligible imported goods, which include chemicals, plastic and paper goods, metals and goods used in food packaging.

Who can apply?

If you are a manufacturer, you can apply if;

  • you are importing raw materials to use in manufacturing a specific product
  • you can show that the goods will perform better than similar Australian produced goods

How to apply?

  • You must submit an application form before importing the goods
  • If successful you will be granted permission to import the goods duty free which will last for 2 years
  • You can apply every 2 years

Australian Apprenticeships Incentive Programme

What is it?

This programme offers incentives for businesses that employ an apprentice. It’s designed to help support businesses in hiring and training apprentices. A new programme is coming in 2020.

How much does it grant?

If you want to employ an apprentice, you could get a one-off payment between $750 and $4000 (depending on the certificate level completed). Support is also available for taking on mature-aged or disabled apprentices.

Who can apply?

To determine whether you are eligible to apply, you first need to contact your local Australian Apprenticeship Support Network.

How to apply?

Apply through your local Australian Apprenticeship Support Network.

IBA Business Development and Assistance Program

What is it?

This program is for Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander people starting a business or growing an existing business. It offers concessional loans and asset leasing as well as funding.

How much does it grant?

  • Business loans from $10,000 up to $100,000
  • Start-up Finance Package awards 30% of a business loan as a grant for loan amounts of up to $100,000
  • Financial aid for start-up or working capital or to purchase existing businesses, equipment and other commercial assets
  • Operating leases for vehicles and equipment
  • Invoice finance for up to 80% of the value of your invoices
  • Providing cash securities for performance bonds

Who can apply?

You can apply as an individual of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander descent or if your business or not-for-profit has at least 50% Indigenous ownership.

If you are a start-up, they also have a package for start-ups that have been trading less than a year with less than $400,000 annual turnover.

How to apply?

You need to contact IBA staff to discuss your business objectives.


What is it?

Restart is a financial incentive offered to encourage employment of mature-aged employees.

How much does it grant?

You can get payments of up to $10,000 for employing mature-aged staff.

Who can apply?

To be able to apply, you need to offer a job to a new employee who is over the age of 50. The position needs to be ongoing for an average of 20 hours a week and you need to have a valid ABN.

How to apply?

You need to register your business with an employment services provider.

CSIRO Kick Start Grant

What is it?

This is a matched funding grant up to $50,000 for Australian start ups and SMEs to undertake research activities with the CSIRO to grow and develop their business.

How much does it grant?

They will dollar-match between $10,000 – $50,000 of your research investment.

Who can apply?

You can apply if;

  • your business id registered for GST, you have an ACN and an annual turnover of under $1.5 million
  • your proposed research activity is for less than 12 months in duration
  • you are conducting an eligible research activity such as researching a new idea with commercial potential, developing a new or improved product or process or testing a new product or material your company has developed

How to apply?

You need to lodge an expression of interest form from CSIRO.

Biomedical Translation Fund

What is it?

This fund is for biomedical health start-ups and provides venture capital from the Federal government.

How much does it grant?

Investments are made at the discretion of the fund managers. You are not guaranteed an investment for meeting the eligibility criteria. So far, 10 investments have been made. The largest was $22 million.

Who can apply?

  • Your start-up must be developing and commercialising ‘biomedical discoveries’
  • You must have the majority of employees and assets in Australia
  • You need to have a revenue of less than $25 million over the past 2 financial years
  • Note that alternative or traditional medicine is not supported.

How to apply?

You need to contact the fund managers.

Australian Renewable Energy Agency

What is it?

This is an umbrella of 5 different funding programmes for businesses in the energy industry.

How much does it grant?

This scheme awards g​rants from $10,000 up to $50 million depending on the programme and project.

Who can apply?

To apply, you need an ABN and your business activity must involve renewable energy technology. The application criteria varies more specifically across the 5 programmes which cover developing projects, R&D, the commercialisation of R&D in conjunction with CSIRO, venture capital, and an innovation fund.

How to apply?

A​RENA recommend you contact them to discuss your interest in an application and thereafter, there is a one or two stage application process starting with an EOI (expression of interest).

The Enterprise Solution Centre

What is it?

This is funding for the agribusiness sector, aiming t​o find commercialisation solutions for products, services or processes.

How much does it grant?

It awards funding from $2500 up to $100,000.

Who can apply?

  • Y​ou need to be a food, beverage or agribusiness producer or a supplier to the agribusiness chain
  • Y​ou need to have more than one year of commercial sales
  • A​BN

How to apply?

Initially, contact the Enterprise Solution Centre to discuss your interest.

NEIS New business assistance

What is it?

This scheme provides small business training, mentoring and support for unemployed individuals for up to 39 weeks to help them start their own business.

How much does it grant?

This scheme offers in-kind support with s​mall business training and personalised mentoring for the first year of the business. There is also a​ financial allowance and possible rental assistance (if applicable and eligible).

Who can apply?

You can apply if you have been unemployed, have permission to work in Australia, can attend training and can work on your own business full-time.

How to apply?

Y​ou need to talk to an NEIS provider in your local area.

Concessions for struggling small businesses

What is it?

There are a range of different tax concessions available for small businesses to reduce their tax burden and make accounting more manageable.

How much does it grant?

The concession type and value will vary according to your business turnover.

There are various concessions available including;

  • Deductions e.g for prepaid expenses or professional expenses for start-ups
  • income tax concessions and offsets
  • simplified record keeping
  • GST, BAS and excise
  • CGT
  • FBT
  • Superannuation

Who can apply?

You need to qualify as a ‘small business entity’, which generally means you have a turnover of less than $10 million.

How to apply?

Consult your accountant or tax professional to discuss your eligibility for the different small business concessions.

State Grants

In addition to the federal grants listed, state governments offer schemes too. Some that might be worthwhile looking at are:

Go niche

Another strategy is to look for niche grants, especially if your business addresses a public need. Some examples are:

  • Playing Queensland Fund for performing artists to tour Queensland
  • Farm Water Supply Planning Scheme (WA) for commercial farms to cover improvements to their water supply
  • First Start Loans (QLD) for individuals in the fishing industry to start a business

Grants are great sources of capital that don’t involve debt or new owners. They require some research, but after consulting this guide, you should be able to make an initial shortlist of which grants you could be eligible for. Remember to check the terms and conditions for all schemes outlined here are still the same now when you’re reading this article, as of November 2019 (when this article was written)

If you’re ready to dive deeper, use the resource links at the start of this article to find further lists of schemes you could explore.

If this article was useful, check out the other articles at QuickBooks Resource Centre especially Small Business Finance for lots of tips and advice on how to deal with your business finances.

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