The Entrepreneurs’ Infrastructure Programme was announced as part of the May 2014 Federal budget and replaces Enterprise Connect Grants and Commercialisation Australia grants.
The $484m EIP Programme is a new approach to the way government provides services to business. It recognises Australia’s diverse business landscape and that the market and industry is changing in the global economy.
The Programme aims to improve the capabilities of small to medium enterprises to become more competitive and grow.
What does it offer
With a national network of more than 100 experienced private sector Advisers, the Entrepreneurs’ Infrastructure Programme offers support to businesses through three streams:
- Business Management
- Research Connections and
- Commercialising Ideas.
Practical support for businesses includes:
- Advice from people with relevant private sector experience
- Small co-contributions for re-engineering or growth opportunities for business and
- Connection and collaboration opportunities.
Services are flexible, tailored and focussed on value-added advice and support. Some services can be accessed by all Australian businesses. Eligibility criteria apply for more targeted assistance and grants.
The Programme has a phased delivery, with initial services commencing on 1 July 2014. Programme information will be updated as more services are available under the Programme in late 2014.
Proposed Grants and Services
The three proposed streams of the Programme are outlined below:
1. Business Management
The Business Management stream helps CEOs and managers take time out to work on their business rather than in their business. Supported by Advisers drawn from the private sector, businesses will develop explicit plans for improvement and will be able to access limited funding to bring in additional specialists. By focusing on what the business needs, Advisers can also connect businesses to other government programmes.
Services could include:
- Business evaluation – conducted by Advisers with senior private sector management experience, this service provides targeted and tailored advice and connections, and key recommendations for business improvement.
- Matched funding of up to $20,000 to engage external expertise to implement projects recommended in the business evaluation.
- Business capability events – learning events featuring industry specialist guest speakers. Topics are industry driven, with issues identified through engagements across the Entrepreneurs’ Infrastructure Programme, and through private sector feedback.
- Benchmarking for supply chains – Advisers help businesses assess gaps between their capabilities and the requirements of supply chains. For example, assessing their capability against the tendering requirements for major projects, or benchmarking their capabilities against global standards. Initially, this is activity is targeted for the resources sector, but could be extended more widely.
- Regional and remote engagement – dedicated resources deployed to remote and regional areas based on need/opportunity. Facilitation experts will be backed by tested tools to build regional industrial capacity, support the needs and aspirations of Indigenous businesses, and better enable regional and remote businesses to identify and grasp opportunities.
2. Research Connections
Australia’s research institutions deliver world-class research, conducted by outstanding professionals. Their knowledge and ideas can add substantially to the productivity of businesses. But many businesses may not fully understand the value of research, or how to engage a researcher, where they start, who they talk to, or how to negotiate agreements. It’s generally not as simple as picking up the phone.
Services could include:
- Access to Advisers who can assess a business’ research needs and then direct them to an appropriate research institution; and
- Matched funding of up to $50,000 to support the cost of bringing research capability into the business for projects to be conducted over three to twelve months.
3. Commercialising Ideas
Whilst Australia makes a significant public investment in science and research, it is well documented that Australian businesses underperform in comparison to their overseas counterparts when it comes to bringing discoveries successfully to market, quickly, and at competitive scale. To address this, the Entrepreneurs’ Infrastructure Programme will include a range of tailored commercialisation services, designed to provide entrepreneurs and innovative businesses access to advice, connections and support, to enhance their prospects of commercial success.
The services in this stream will address key challenges in the commercialisation pathway for businesses by: making new ideas visible to those that have the aspiration and means to identify and help commercialise them, providing critical-mass networking infrastructure and appropriately skilled, experienced and independent Advisers and, funding support for early stage commercialisation activities with commercial potential.
The Entrepreneurs’ Infrastructure Programme recognises the unique challenges associated with building or diversifying a business through commercialising a new product, process or service, are distinct from the challenges that face all businesses.
Services could include (see update 31st Oct 2014 – Accelerating Commercialisation Grant):
- Commercialisation evaluation – access to Advisers who can help businesses and entrepreneurs identify and develop the skills and knowledge they need to commercialise their idea, product or service. This may include coaching and preparing businesses to pitch to early stage investors, including venture capital investors.
- Facilitated and qualified introductions – connections to a broader network of private sector people who have hands-on experience in building businesses and who understand the hurdles faced by early stage businesses in trying to commercialise new ideas. These connections will be further complemented by formal and informal networking opportunities that will allow supported businesses to interact with each other, members of the broader network, and Entrepreneurs’ Infrastructure Programme Advisers.
- Linking to markets and investors – access to financial investors, strategic corporate and multinational representatives, both in Australia and overseas, through meetings, workshops, roadshows, or showcase events, to demonstrate the potential of the new product or service. This can play a critical role in building market access and supply chain capacity for innovative businesses who might otherwise lack the capacity to achieve this level of exposure.
- These activities could result in opportunities for direct investments, and partnerships through which Australian businesses can gain rapid penetration of much larger markets and build supply chain or production capacity.
- They will expose these businesses to multinationals and their market imperatives, multinational market opportunities and the needs of the international customer base.
- Multinationals will also learn about the diversity of opportunities offered by Australian businesses and will consequently be more likely to see and pursue Australian businesses as potential opportunities for strategic partnerships.
- Matched funding of up to $1,000,000 to assist businesses to progress the commercialisation of their new idea. The types of activities that could be funded include: the development of a business or commercialisation plan or an intellectual property protection strategy, or proof of concept work to establish the commercial viability of a new product or service, including prototyping. These activities could be undertaken over a period of up to two years.
It is important that access to the one-on-one support services are targeted at businesses that can make the most of the advice and assistance provided. Broadly, the Programme is designed to help established businesses grow and as such they can access any stream. However, it is envisaged that whilst start-up businesses will not be the focus of the business management or research connections streams of the Programme, they will be a focus of the commercialisation stream.
1. Business Management Eligibility
In order to ensure maximum return for businesses receiving facilitation based support, general eligibility requirements for businesses to enter the business management or research connections streams may apply:
- Operating for more than three years
- Sufficient turnover levels
- Operating in an eligible sector which could include: manufacturing, resources, infrastructure related construction, information technology and communications, creative industries, food processing, medical and pharmaceutical, energy and resource management, professional services, freight transport and logistics.
Grant funding for the business management stream will be linked to the application stage, with businesses successfully completing the business evaluation able to access funding.
For businesses to be eligible for access to the growth services part of the business management stream, which provides for a multi-year engagement, they must additionally demonstrate:
- Willingness to engage with change
- Growth potential
- Capacity to benefit from additional services, including commercialisation advice.
2. Research Connections Eligibility
Grant funding for the research connections stream will be allocated up to the limit of funds available in a given year and applicants must be able to demonstrate:
- A need for Government funding
- That research will support a project of commercial relevance to the business
- An ability to at least match the Government funding
3. Commercialising Ideas Eligibility
General eligibility for the commercialising ideas stream will not be limited to specific sectors, however all projects must involve development of a new product, process or service with a compelling value proposition and a significant market opportunity. This means that it is possible for both established businesses and start-ups to access these services.
Grant funding through this stream will be allocated on a competitive basis and applicants will need to additionally demonstrate:
- A need for Government funding
- A significant market opportunity for the outcomes of the project
- A compelling value proposition for a new product, process or service
- A sound execution plan
- Appropriate management capability
- Significant national benefits resulting from the project
- An ability to at least match the Government funding.
Available Programme offerings at 31st Oct 2014
Current Programme offerings are:
- Business Evaluations – an assessment conducted at a business’ premises, resulting in a detailed report and recommendations for the business to make improvements
- Business Growth Grants – small, co-funded grants up to $20k to engage external expertise to assist businesses with implementing improvements recommended by their Business Evaluation.
- Research Connections – funding up to $50k to collaborate with the research sector to develop new ideas with commercial potential, as well as to help identify any knowledge gaps that are preventing business growth
- Accelerating Commercialisation Grant – Matched funding of up to $1,000,000 to assist businesses to progress the commercialisation of their new idea. The types of activities that could be funded include: the development of a business or commercialisation plan or an intellectual property protection strategy, or proof of concept work to establish the commercial viability of a new product or service, including prototyping.
Please refer to the Customer Information Guides for further information about these Programme offerings.
Grant Writing Assistance
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