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Innovation lies at the heart of entrepreneurial success but, often, turning an idea into reality can be financially challenging. Nukte Ogun has put together a list of government and private industry grants and awards programs supporting business innovation, to help you on your way.

Adair Innovation

Supported by government and private industry partnerships, Adair fosters Australian innovation, and organises the following initiatives:

• The Australian Innovation Festival. This annual festival has been increasing public understanding of the importance of innovation since 2002 by offering a multitude of events for SMEs, entrepreneurs, and startups.

• The Leaders of Innovation. A national seminar series featuring presentations from innovative Australian entrepreneurs.

Contact: http://www.ausinnovation.org


AusIndustry is the Australian government agency for delivering products, services, and information to support industry, research, and innovation. Alongside a number of small business products and services, AusIndustry also offers the following innovation grants:

      • The Commercial Ready Program aims to support the growth of innovative Australian businesses and products, and to increase collaboration between industry and research institutions. Financial assistance ranges from $50,000 to $5 million, but it is only provided on condition that SMEs match the assistance dollar for dollar.

      • The Commercialising Emerging Technologies (COMET) program will be assisting the commercialisation of innovative products, processes, and services until June 2011. The level of funding is decided annually by the Federal Government. To benefit from grant assistance, applicants must become an incorporated under the Corporations Act 2001.

      • The Industry Cooperative Innovation Program offers grants ranging from $150,000 to $3 million to encourage business-to-business cooperation on innovative projects.

      • The Innovation Investment Fund provides venture capital funds to SMEs, however a licensed fund is required to invest in eligible investee small businesses.

      • The Renewable Energy Development Initiative assists Australian businesses to commercialise innovative renewable energy projects.

      • The R&D Tax Concession provides a tax deduction of up to 125 percent of eligible expenditure, to further develop innovative products and services.

      • The R&D Tax Offset supports innovative small businesses, in particular those that can’t instantly benefit from the R&D Tax Concession.

Contact: http://www.ausindustry.gov.au

Australian Apprenticeships

An initiative of the Department of Education, Science and Training, Australian Apprenticeships is offering new apprentices and their employers special incentives such as the Innovation Incentive—a commencement payment of $1,210 for business owners who employ an apprentice in a defined innovation training package. The apprentice must be at Certificate Level III or IV.

Contact: http://www.australianapprenticeships.gov.au

Australian Institute for Commercialisation

This assists entrepreneurs in turning their innovative ideas into successful commercial businesses. One of the initiatives is Ideas2Market, a series of workshops supported by the Queensland Department of State Development and Trade. Participants will be provided with advice on how to take their idea to market and develop their business through innovative products and services. The workshops currently only run in Queensland and Tasmania.

Contact: http://www.ausicom.com.au

Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and


This federal government department offers numerous programs to develop innovative and sustainable industries. The programs include:

      • Pilot Commercialisation Grants. These provide funding to commercialise innovative agriculture products and services. Funding is only granted on a matched dollar for dollar basis with the applicant, and applicants must have completed the initial market research and assessment.

      • The Natural Resource Innovation Grants are a one-off grant and aim to encourage SMEs in the agriculture industry to develop innovative and sustainable production. Startup businesses are not eligible to apply for this grant.

      • The Science and Innovation Awards for Young People in Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry are open to applicants between the ages of 18 to 35. Applicants who demonstrate a use of innovative technology to further the development of the agriculture industry could receive up to $10,000 to further their business venture.

Contact: http://www.daff.gov.au


This not-for-profit organisation provides several practical services to assist innovative SMEs in the early stages of establishing a commercial business. Among the services offered is the Next Big Thing Award—an annual competition to promote innovative Australian products which could potentially become ‘the next big thing’. As a significant event during the Australian Innovation Festival, the awards receive substantial media coverage. Winners will also receive a share in cash and prizes valued at $30,000.

Contact: http://www.innovic.com.au

National Innovation Website

The National Innovation website raises awareness of the importance of innovation and entrepreneurship to SMEs. A variety of information is provided to assist small to medium businesses in the implementation of their innovative ideas. The information and links supplied support SMEs in the growth and development of their business. The website also provides detailed information for young entrepreneurs about innovation assistance through initiatives such as the National Innovation Awareness Strategy Business Plan Competition. This aims to encourage innovative entrepreneurs to develop a business plan. Teams of two to five, with at least one student, are required to develop a plan for a concept that has not had previous funding. The teams will be eligible to partake in a series of workshops and will have the opportunity to win cash prizes.

Contact: http://www.innovation.gov.au

Nestle Company

The Nestle Company offers a variety of competitions to promote community development. To encourage innovative business development, Nestle presents the Nescafe Big Break competition, which offers young entrepreneurs between the ages of 16 to 24 the chance to win up to $100,000 to develop their innovative business ideas. Entrants can enter as an individual or as a group, however all group members must meet the age requirement. While entrants from all business areas are accepted, they must be permanent residents of Australia or New Zealand. ‘Mini’ Big Breaks of $1,000 are also on offer.

Contact: http://www.nescafebigbreak.com.au

Northern Territory Research and Innovation

Board and Fund

The Northern Territory Government created the Research and Innovation Board and Fund to support the development of innovative ideas, products, and services in the Territory. Among the grants offered is the Research and Innovation Grant, which aims to create a partnership with SMEs who conduct innovative research. All ideas which display a benefit to the Territory will be considered, though preference will be given to local applicants. There is currently no maximum funding level per applicant.

Contact: http://www.nt.gov.au/business

NSW Small Business

Found within the Department of State and Regional Development, NSW Small Business is the government information site for small businesses. Among the competitions offered to support small business innovation is the
Young Bizstar Pitching Competition. Open to entrepreneurs between the ages 18 to 35, who either have an innovative business idea or are starting up a new business, the competition consists of three categories, each offering a business support package valued at around $6,000.

Contact: http://www.smallbiz.nsw.gov.au

Queensland Department of State Development

This department handles the Queensland Government’s economic development and negotiates innovation at other levels within the state government. The department develops economic growth through the following programs:

      • The Innovation Startup Scheme promotes innovation in Queensland and relieves the financial pressure during the early stages of commercialisation. Queensland-based SMEs are eligible for grants between $50,000 and $80,000, however funding must be matched on a 80:20 basis (government 80 percent, applicant 20 percent).

      • The Smart Awards recognise innovative Queensland businesses and their products, processes, and services. Successful applicants in each category receive a cash prize of $10,000.

      • The Queensland Industry Development Scheme aims to assist businesses to innovate and develop. Assistance is provided on a dollar for dollar basis, with a minimum of $5,000 per project, and a maximum of $50,000.

Contact: http://www.sd.qld.gov.au

Small Business Development Corporation

The SBDC is an agency within the Western Australia State Government, focused on the development of the small business sector. SBDC offers support programs to innovative SMEs in Western Australia, including the Innovation to Market (ITM) program, designed to assist small businesses when commercialising innovative ideas. The ITM program supports SMEs while planning their commercialisation approach and assesses challenges.

Contact: http://www.sbdc.com.au

Tasmanian Department of Economic


This department is the main source of information for developing businesses in Tasmania. The department grants innovative Tasmanian businesses the following assistance:

      • Early Stage Commercialisation Assistance. Applicants who are in the early stages of commercialisation can receive up to $20,000 on a two-for-one dollar basis. The fund is only for use towards direct costs incurred while commercialising the innovative product or service.

      • Mentoring Assistance aims to further develop innovation, commercialisation, and business skills. A grant of up to $20,000 is available on a three-for-one dollar basis.

      •Commercialisation Assistance is available to applicants who are in the process of commercialising their innovative product or service. Applicants may be eligible for up to $150,000 on a two-for-one dollar basis.

      • The Market Ready Commercialisation Program (Market Ready) provides the skills necessary for SMEs to commercialise their innovative idea and put it on the market. Successful applicants will receive the opportunity to attend a series of workshops over a period of 10 days, worth around $5,000.

Contact: http://www.development.tas.gov.au

Telstra Corporation

Telstra facilitates numerous awards programs to contribute to the business communities in which they are involved. The programs they have developed to boost business innovation include:

      • The Telstra Business Awards Program. Established in 1992, the awards recognise the achievements of small Australian businesses. Applicants are placed in one of five categories based on their number of full-time employees. Finalists from those categories are automatically eligible for the AMP Innovation Award. Alongside sharing in prizes worth around $400,000, winners will receive significant media publicity and credibility.

      • The Telstra Business Women’s Awards have been acknowledging the contributions of Australia’s female business leaders since 1995. Entrants are placed in one of four categories, including a category for young businesswomen. Entrants who answer the innovation questions on the entry form will also be considered for the Australian Government Business Innovation Award. The winner in each state and territory will receive $5,000, and the Telstra Australian Business Women of the Year receives a further $10,000.

Contact: http://www.telstra.com

WA Department of Industry and Resources

This department of the WA Government provides numerous services and programs to improve Western Australia’s economic growth. Among the initiatives provided to SMEs is the Inventor of the Year program, which aims to encourage innovation and entrepreneurship in the public, private, and education sectors. The winning inventor receives financial services and assistance alongside further resources tailored to meet their specific business needs.

Contact: http://www.doir.wa.gov.au

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