Navigating the grants landscape can be a confusing and complicated journey. In this article we provide some tips to get you ready to go and point you in the right direction.
Understand the Requirements
It may seem like an obvious point, but anecdotal evidence shows that a significant proportion of grant applications fail because the applicant does not meet all the criteria or is missing key pieces of required information in their application.
Before deciding whether to pursue a grant (especially the competitive, merit-based ones) you should ensure you review the guidelines document to confirm that you meet all the requirements, and your proposed project is well suited to the objectives of the grant programme. Nothing is more frustrating than spending significant amounts of time preparing a grant application, only to be knocked back because you did not meet one of the go / no-go criteria.
Know Your Project
Grants that support innovation, development, manufacturing etc. are all about supporting projects with a high chance of success that will deliver significant benefits to Australia or specific states / regions but, due to issues with the capital markets, would not go ahead without the Government (i.e. the Australian taxpayers) chipping in.
For this reason, any prospective grant applicant should have a fully formed project ready to go if they stand any chance of being awarded a grant. This means already having prepared a business plan, project plan, agreements in place with other project participants, budgets, timelines, milestone tables, CVs of key project personnel etc.
Not only are these often required to be submitted as part of the process, they also support a company being able to effectively and efficiently make the case as to why their project should be funded, rather than the other applicants in their cohort. Many of the larger grants are assessed in rounds, meaning there is a set pool of money for a given round which will be allocated across the successful applications. An application that is missing key information required for the assessment will be less likely to succeed when put up against an application with everything present and accounted for.
Large Grants = More Competition
When it comes to competitive grants, the more money you want, the harder you must work for it. As they are competitive processes that award taxpayer money based on merit, it stands to reason that a project that will generate more Australian jobs will win out over similar projects that generate less.
For this reason, it is important to be realistic when deciding whether to pursue a grant opportunity. Typically grants will also have target areas, such as women, that align with Government objectives, so projects that fall into specific industries will be given more consideration that those that do not. It may be better in the long run to focus on another area of funding rather than pursuing grants. Going after the low hanging fruit of programmes such as the R&D Tax Incentive or Export Market Development Scheme is often a smart decision that pays off in the long run.
Due to the issues discussed above, the administrators of the various programmes are generally keen to engage with companies early in the process to ensure that only the applicants that are compliant and stand a good chance of success move forward with an application. This saves time for the programme administrators and the less competitive companies. In some instances, they may also provide useful information as to how a potential project / application could be strengthened, or even point you to another grant that may be better suited.
Knowing about various grants ahead of time will is also extremely valuable. We often speak to people who have a great project ready to go and need the money to fund it yesterday. Small grants may take up to 8 weeks after application to be notified of success, with larger grants taking longer at 4-6 months. In the grant world – timing is everything – so being aware of opportunities before you need them is crucial and will increase your chances of success.
A useful resource to be aware of is the GrantConnect website where you can search a database of grants and even subscribe to an email alert service. Some State Governments also have useful grants websites, though some states are better than others in this area.