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Innovation may be the key to running a successful business, but ideas need finance to get them to market. Here is a guide to government and private industry grants and awards programs, for SMEs in need of funding.

Adair Innovation—www.ausinnovation.org

Supported by government and private industry partnerships, Adair promotes 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 start-ups.

* The Leaders of Innovation. The national seminar series features presentations from innovative Australian entrepreneurs.


AusIndustry is the Australian government agency responsible for delivering more than 35 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:

* Building Entrepreneurship in Small Business (BESB) is supporting Australian entrepreneurs, by providing a set of four grants to develop Australian small business skills.

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

* The Commercial Ready Plus Program is offering SMEs grants between $50,000 and $250,000 for innovative projects lasting up to 18 months. Any aspect of the project can be funded.

* The Commercialising Emerging Technologies (COMET) program will be assisting the commercialisation of innovative products, processes, and services until June 2011. The Federal Government decides the level of funding each year. To be eligible for the grant, applicants must become 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 is a broad-based tax concession that provides a tax deduction of up to 125 percent of eligible expenditure, to further develop innovative products and services. Under certain circumstances, a 175 percent Incremental (Premium) Tax Concession and R&D Tax Offset are also available. Talk to AusIndustry to find out if you qualify.

Australian Apprenticeships—www.australianapprenticeships.gov.au

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—an additional $1,100 to be paid on commencement to business owners who employ an apprentice in a defined innovation training package.

Australian Institute for Commercialisation—www.ausicom.com.au

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.

Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry—www.daff.gov.au

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

* Food Innovation Grants, aiming to improve industry competition by providing matching funds to Australian food companies undertaking research.

* Pilot Commercialisation Project Grants: provide funding to commercialise innovative agriculture products and services. Funding is between $35,000 and $120,000 and is only granted on a matched dollar for dollar basis. 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. Start-up 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.



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.

National Innovation Website—www.innovation.gov.au

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.

Northern Territory Research and Innovation Board and Fund—www.nt.gov.au/business

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. The grants on offer include the Innovation Grant, and the Research and Development Grant, aiming to create a partnership with SMEs who conduct innovative research. All ideas which display a benefit to the Territory will be considered, though preference may be given to local applicants.

NSW Small Business—www.smallbiz.nsw.gov.au

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. Entrepreneurs between the ages 18 to 35, who either have an innovative business idea or are starting up a new business, can compete for more than $18,000 worth of business support.

Queensland Department of State Development—www.sd.qld.gov.au

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 Start-up 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 an 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 and a maximum of $50,000 per project.

Small Business Development Corporation—www.sbdc.com.au

The SBDC is an agency with
in the Western Australia 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 any possible challenges.

South Australian Department of Trade and Economic Development—www.southaustralia.biz

Promoting business innovation through events and workshops, the Department of Trade and Economic Development is now also offering an Innovation Development Grant. Funds can be used to offset numerous expenses, including marketing, commercialisation, and mentoring costs. Applicants must be a registered and solvent South Australian business, with a two- year history, and an annual turnover between $500,000 and $5 million.

Tasmanian Department of Economic Development—www.development.tas.gov.au

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.


Telstra Corporation—www.telstra.com

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 business women. Entrants who answer the innovation questions on the entry form will also be considered for the Australian Government Business Innovation Award. Winners will receive media coverage and share approximately $210,000 worth of cash and prizes.

WA Department of Industry and Resources—www.doir.wa.gov.au

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 resources alongside further resources tailored to meet their specific business needs.


Funded and Flying High

A strong aviation spirit is helping a small Queensland company gain an international reputation for producing affordable, high performance aircraft.

Jabiru, based in Bundaberg, was formed 20 years ago by flying enthusiasts Rodney Stiff and Phil Ainsworth. The pair realised there was an unmet demand for a low-cost and durable recreational aircraft.

Theirs is a story of how problems can become opportunities.

One of their first challenges was convincing CASA of the safety and high performance of their aircraft, which were unique because they were made from fibreglass.

In 1991, Jabiru struck another hurdle when its Italian engine manufacturer ceased production. These engines were the lightest available at the time, and the Jabiru aircraft were developed around them. Not to be defeated, the company began designing its own lightweight 80 to 120-horsepower range of engines.

After intense research and development, the first Jabiru-developed engine was approved by CASA to be installed in Jabiru aircraft in 1993.

Avtech is the intellectual property arm of Jabiru. Business manager Susan Woods says the company’s belief in continuous innovation to stay ahead of competitors is a major reason for success.

The Australian Government’s R&D Tax Concession has also helped provide financial help for this innovation. The company is able to claim a 30 percent tax offset payment for approved research and development.

"We are continually undertaking research and development," Woods says. "We provide high performance and value for money, as well as aircraft that are more affordable to maintain.

"Because we are a small business we don’t have big infrastructure costs, and we can incorporate changes quickly."

Jabiru currently has 25 employees, as well as 35 contractors on the books.

The company’s research and development projects include developing a training aircraft. This took nine years to develop, and is now being sold around Australia. These low cost aircraft are made from Australian fibreglass and resin materials, which haven’t previously been used in international certified aircraft. New wiring was also developed.

Other projects include developing some of the lightest aircraft in the world, as well as modifications to their engines to improve durability and fuel economy. "We are now producing 20 airframes and 75 engines a month and Jabiru has developed into one of only a few aircraft and engine manufacturers in the world," Woods says. "Our ongoing focus on research and development has meant we are able to enter new markets, and we now export our engines to 31 countries. Now we are looking to develop our own helicopter."

Jabiru also manufactures propellers, wheels and brakes and control system components. Aircraft are available in kit form, or fully manufactured.

Wood’s father, Rodney, fully acquired the company in 2005. He received a medal of the order of Australia in 2006 for service to the aviation industry.


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