12 tips for accessing government grants to transform your business
SAGE Automation, Published: March 22, 2018 - Updated: February 25, 2020 (8 min read)
Although manufacturing and industrial operators have access to millions-of-dollars in government grants per year, it remains an underutilized resource. People tend to think the grant process is too difficult.
But now, more than ever, manufacturing and industrial operators should be taking advantage of grants;
They’re being awarded for energy & renewables, industry 4.0, business optimisation, innovation, prototype/pilots, advanced manufacturing and business diversification.
And grants are a great way to co-fund transformation, particularly if has wider benefit to community such as the environment, sustainability, employment, or increasing exports.
But for those who’ve never done it – the process of finding and applying for a government grant can be overwhelming.
You might be thinking, “Is it really worth the time and effort?” The answer is yes!
We’ve built up some experience over the years and thought we’d share how it’s done. Here are our tips for completing successful grant applications:
Tip #1 – Be prepared to act quickly when a grant opens
Grants come and go very quickly – so be prepared to submit within a short timeframe.
To avoid missing out keep your eye out for new grants, set up google alerts, talk to your networks, and ask grant coordinators to keep you in the loop. We’ve provided some resources at the end of this article.
Tip #2 – Take the time to understand how the grant works
Grants can seem daunting at first but while they are often easier than you think, you do need to really understand how they’re structured.
e.g. A particular Federal Government Grant required applicants to undertake a free session with a government facilitator, who would then recommend if you could apply for the grant. This requirement might seem daunting but it provides a good way to validate and shape the way a business might apply for a grant.
Important note: Grants aren’t cash handouts!
A common mistake people make is in thinking they can choose where and how they spend grant money.
Many grants exist to give business affordable access to specialist consultants or connecting you with publically funded research organisations. This means partnering with that outside organisation.
So leave preconceived ideas at the door and focus on understanding the grants’ purpose.
Tip #3 – Absolutely 110% fit the eligibility criteria
Every grant will have basic eligibility criteria that you need to qualify for. This can be based on company size, years in business, revenue, type of business, and/or regional requirements. If you don’t fit these 100 percent, don’t waste your time submitting a grant. Instead, call the grant coordinator or administrator.
Tip #4 – Call the grant administrator before you put any effort in
There are two great benefits here:
1) it’s a great networking opportunity, and
2) they'll tell you straight up if you’re the right fit. Plus they might provide you with some great tips for a successful application, such as examples of previous winning applications!
In short you’ll save a lot of wasted time and energy.
Tip #5 – Don’t hang everything on grant success
Be careful about making a grant the centre of your commercial proposal for a customer. Don’t expose yourself to a situation where if you don’t get the grant you still need to do the project but haven’t got the budget.
Tip #6 – Consider getting outside help to write your grant
Don’t be frightened to collaborate with the research or service provider that you want to work with on the project. They’ll often have experience in this domain. For example, both SAGE and Nukon can help a customer write a grant application.
Tip #7 – Draft it in Word
Most grants require final answers to be submitted via a web form or editable PDF. To reduce the chances of losing your work and introducing errors, draft the application in a word document and copy and paste when you’re ready to submit.
Tip #8 – Keep answers to-the-point
Make sure you address every point in the question. A good rule of thumb is to keep answers as short as possible and long as they need to be. Don’t be frightened you're repeating yourself across different questions.
Resist the urge to answer using a long winded business story or personal circumstance. The person who is assessing your application will be trying to quantify your answers with how they align to the assessment criteria.
If you have special circumstances, talk directly with the grant administrator on the phone.
Tip #9 – Align your submission with grant providers strategic priorities
Align every answer with a strategic priority of the grant provider. Government grants are designed to support the delivery of their strategic priorities, so if your idea or concept doesn’t fit, you may be best to keep looking for one that does.
e.g. The South Australian Department of State Development grant applications need to align with SA’s strategic priorities:
Tip #10 – Submit by the deadline & confirm your submission
Grant providers are strict on deadlines. Aim to have your draft completed well before the deadline.
Once you’ve submitted, ring the grant administrator (who should know you by now) to make sure they got your submission. Ensure you also get confirmation in writing.
Tip #11 – Set a diary date for when you're meant to hear back
Don’t be afraid to ring the administrator to follow up.
Tip #12 – When you get the grant, follow the reporting, timelines and rules
If you don’t spend the grant money correctly or on time, they can (and do!) take the money back – even after it’s been spent. If your circumstances change and you can no longer fulfil the grant, you can give the money back.
Make sure you submit the key milestone reporting. It’s not too onerous, but they will want the updates.
- Never assume that you can’t get the grant. Grants are an untapped resource
- Don’t discount yourself for being too small or too large – there are grants out there for every business size and stage
- Keep an open mind. Many grants require you work collaboratively with research or other industry – the new perspective and specialised knowledge you can gain is invaluable if you’re willing to work with it.
Start your search today:
There’s a grant for you if you just look: e.g. SA’s Manufacturing programs and grants
Start your government grant search here:
- Visit Grant Connect for the Australian Government’s centralised Grant Hub
- Visit business.gov.au/assistance for an alternate, powerful Federal and State Government grant search
New Zealand Grants:
- Visit business.govt.nz for national business grants
- Visit eecabusiness.govt.nz for energy funding and support for business
- Visit grants.gov to search a national database of available grants
- Visit manufacturing.gov for the national advanced manufacturing portal
- Visit energy.gov for Energy Efficiency and Renewable and programs
If you need assistance with energy, advanced manufacturing, process optimisation or digitisation related grants, contact us below.
Or to get started, read how we’ve worked on process optimisation projects with Udder Delights and Spring Gully – all through government grants.
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