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Government Grants – Could Your Business Benefit?

Wading through the various state and federal government grants available can be a challenge for any business, whether it's a small start-up, seasoned company or a well-established enterprise.

Fortunately, there are steps any business can take to determine if a particular government grant suits the organisation.

First, it's important to understand that most government grants are awarded to help a business create jobs, stimulate the local economy or a specific market sector, advance research and development, subsidise capital investment or encourage export activity.

Second, there are several types of funding available – and it's important to review all the options. However, a form of federal funding called 'Commercial Ready' is often the most relevant type of grant for a business seeking support for the introduction of new products, projects or services. In addition, the government is now introducing a Commercial Ready 'Plus' program, which will make it easier for small businesses to access government funding.

No matter what type of funding appeals to your business, you can follow this simple check-list to help you handle the application and grant-management process.

1. Examine Grant Guidelines. Look closely at the specific rules and regulations outlined for the grant under consideration, to determine if your business is eligible to apply.

2. Call a Meeting. It's highly recommended you meet with a representative from the relevant government department to see if they foresee any initial problems or obstacles that would prevent a successful application.

3. Prepare the Application. Invest the proper time and resources needed to prepare your grant application. To speed up the process and ensure accuracy, seek the advice of your business advisor or accountant to prepare and review all or part of the application.

4. Provide Additional Information. In most cases the government will make a request for additional information after your application has been received. Respond promptly, with accurate details.

5. Enter into Funding Agreement. If your business wins a grant, a legally-binding government contract may be required before funds will be distributed. The contract will include information about the grant amount, timing and terms of funding. Again, it's important to consult with your business advisors and lawyers to complete the contract.

6. Receive Funding. If your business is awarded a large grant, installment payments may be made. The government will choose to disburse each installment after your business reaches certain milestones outlined in your funding agreement.

7. Manage Reporting. The government will require ongoing reports from your business (sometimes even years after the last installment has been received!) so be prepared to invest the time to complete these documents.

Government grants can be extremely beneficial to your business, allowing you to undertake and complete projects that wouldn't be feasible without funding.

At the same time, it's essential to investigate any potential 'downsides' you might encounter should your business receive government funding. These can include the cost of preparing the application and ongoing reporting requirements, greater tax liabilities, and reduction in certain business concessions.

If government funding makes sense for your business, take the time to explore the various types of funding available. Then present your organisation in its best light to maximise the chances of receiving a grant.

– Adrian Chugg is Business Advisory Manager at William Buck Business Advisors and Chartered Accountants, specialising in government grants.

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