The Australian Government offers many subsidies to businesses and individuals to assist them in pursuing their goals. These aren’t loans and there is no expectation of repayment, instead they are given with the expectation that they will in some way benefit Australian society. This may be by facilitating research or product development, enabling training or incentivising certain business practices. Most grants come with significant reporting requirements and heavy scrutiny from experts or peers.
What sort of government grants are available?
The Australian Government offers hundreds of grants which are constantly updated. The full list is available here https://www.business.gov.au/assistance/results?q= and there are options to search by state, by industry, by the type of assistance or by the necessary requirements to apply.
Some of the most important grants for small businesses include:
- Research and development tax incentive: the R&D tax incentive is designed to help businesses create new products and services, by offsetting tax on expenses which are incurred while innovating. Companies with annual turnovers of under $20 million can claim a 43.5% refundable tax offset on R&D expenses up to $100 million. Larger companies can claim 38.5%.
- Export Market Development Grant: this grant is designed to assist Australian businesses in finding new outbound markets for Australia and promoting tourism to Australia. It is available to businesses that spend $15,000 or more on export promotion and entitles them to reimbursement of 50% of the costs over $5,000. Businesses must have promoted exports, inbound tourism or Australian events overseas.
- Entrepreneurs’ Programme: uses experienced experts from industry to give advice and support to new businesses to improve their competitiveness, productivity and to find growth opportunities. This programme also offers co-funded grants to commercialise new intellectual property and funding to facilitate growth.
- Business Development and Assistance Program: provides support and concessional loans to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders to assist them in accessing training and services to start or grow a business.
- Australian Apprenticeships Incentives Programme: businesses that employ apprentices are provided with financial rewards to incentivise training of new tradespeople.
State governments in Australia also offer a number of grants to new businesses operating in their state, and can be found using the link above and filtering for a specific area.
Why does the Government support startups?
While it may be easy to understand why the Government would fund projects of proven businesses with track records of success, the benefit of funding riskier startups is less obvious and immediate. It’s important to remember that while a new business founder is pursuing their goal for personal reasons, startups in general serve an important function in the business community and the marketplace. Startups innovate new approaches to problems and business practices, and encouraging individuals to take the risk of pursuing that innovation is vital to improving any industry. Similarly, while an entrepreneur's first venture may fail, their second, third or fourth venture may be a huge success. Government grants provide support to entrepreneurs (and many other types of business people) to develop themselves and grow as individuals, which empowers them to take advantage of opportunities down the line.