|Stage 1 EoI submissions open||Wednesday 30 January 2013|
|Stage 1 EoI submission close||2pm Thursday 7 March 2013|
|Assessment of Stage 1 EoI applications||March/April 2013|
|Notification of Stage 1 outcomes||April/May 2013|
|Stage 2 Business Plans deadline||2pm Wednesday 29 May 2013|
|Assessment of Stage 2 applications||June/July 2013|
|Notification of Stage 2 outcomes|
Grant agreements finalisedAugust/September 2013
*Please note these dates are provided as a guide only and may be subject to change. Any updates on the program timeframes will be communicated at: www.business.vic.gov.au/dff.
The Digital Futures Fund (DFF) is a competitive, merit based grants program. The program’s objectives are to:
- support collaborative projects involving the development and implementation of ICT solutions that transform current business practices and deliver productivity benefits to Victorian SMEs; and
- share information and project learnings to demonstrate the benefits across the Victorian economy.
The adoption of ICT has been demonstrated to drive productivity, innovation and improve the competitiveness of businesses. The DFF supports small to medium enterprises to overcome business challenges through the use of ICT by reducing barriers to specialist ICT resources, knowledge and technical expertise. Through a competitive and merit-based process, the DFF will provide financial support to projects that:
- assist Victorian SMEs to solve business challenges through the development and implementation of ICT-led solutions;
- deliver significant improvements to products, services and or business models and business productivity;
- demonstrate collaboration between Victorian businesses and relevant ICT companies, researchers and industry groups to develop solutions; and
- commit to share project learnings with other businesses.
The DFF is part of the Victorian Government’s strategy to ensure ICT contributes to a competitive, productive and growing Victorian economy as outlined in Victoria’s Technology Plan for the Future – Information and Communication Technology. The DFF is administered by the Department of Business and Innovation (the Department).
2.1 Available funding
Funding is available to projects with a maximum duration of two years. Requests for funding can range from $50,000 to $500,000 (ex GST) per project. The level of funding requested should be commensurate with the complexity, level of innovation and/or expected quantifiable benefits arising from the proposed project.
2.2 Cash co-contribution requirements
A minimum cash co-contribution of 25 per cent of the total project cost is required for each project. For example, an application for a project costing $100,000 will require the collaborative partners to contribute a minimum of $25,000 towards the project. In general, proposals identifying cash co-contributions greater than the 25 per cent of the total project cost will be given priority. In addition to the required cash co-contributions, applications identifying in-kind contributions are encouraged and will be given priority. Cash is defined as allowable expenditure reflected in the recipient’s financial statements and paid by the recipients for the purposes of the project.
2.3 Project expenditure
Funding can be applied to project specific costs such as, but not limited to:
- salary and on-costs for new staff associated with the project;
- purchase or lease of new technology and equipment (hardware and software) directly related to the development and implementation of the project;
- professional services such as technical advice;
- administration and project management; and/or
- other costs associated with project implementation such as evaluation.
Funding is notavailable for:
- business as usual expenses such as meeting existing payroll and salary commitments;
- purchase of capital equipment not integral to the project;
- substitution of existing staff, operational or premises costs;
- commercialisation of new ICT products or services or any technical advice relating to commercialisation;
- market research;
- marketing and advertising expenses;
- sales and promotional activities;
- basic professional services as part of standard business operations;
- travel and hospitality costs;
- seed funding for start up or incubator proposals;
- projects to support exports or access to export markets;
- undertaking research and development that is not an integral part of the project;
- ongoing maintenance or operational costs;
- costs already incurred before submitting or developing the proposal; and
- costs associated with producing an application to the DFF (other than those provided for by a business plan grant).
All applications must address the following to be considered eligible.
3.1 Collaborative projects
The project must comprise a minimum of three parties, two of which must be Victorian non-ICT SMEs facing a shared business challenge that the project will solve through the proposed ICT solution. It is expected that the third party will bring ICT expertise to the development, trial and testing of the specific solution to the shared business challenge.
Applicants are encouraged to develop collaborations most relevant to effectively deliver their project.
Preferably collaborations will be newly established relationships. Collaborations must include two or more non-ICT SMEs sharing the business challenge and each party must have a clear role and interest in solving the business challenge.
Projects that seek to solve a business challenge which could result in broader shared benefits across the sector or economy will be well regarded.
The two non-ICT SMEs must be the end users and beneficiaries of the proposed ICT solution. The primary and direct beneficiaries from the proposed ICT solution must not be ICT providers/specialists providing services or products for the project.
3.2 Business challenge
The DFF project must aim to use ICT to solve a business challenge shared by two Victorian non-ICT SMEs. A business challenge is a limitation or constraint to a business’ productivity, growth and/or profitability. The challenge may be how to:
- improve the quality of a non-ICT business product;
- reduce the time, labour or quantity of raw materials required to produce a product; or
- improve the speed and quality of delivering a service.
A business challenge must be measurable and quantifiable (such as time, staff, energy, waste and/or dollars).
3.3 Small to medium sized enterprises
The SMEs must:
- be Victorian-based;
- employ 1 to 199 staff;
- have an Australian Business Number (ABN) or Australian Company Number (ACN); and
- not share premises or have common ownership.
Other parties to the project may include, but are not limited to:
- ICT companies and service providers;
- industry bodies, associations and cooperatives;
- not-for-profit organisations;
- community organisations;
- charitable institutions;
- universities and TAFEs;
- public research and development centres and organisations; and/or
- government departments and agencies.
Partners may be based outside Victoria, as long as they provide resources and contributions to a project that will be implemented in Victoria.
3.5 Low priority projects
Due to the objective to drive the development and uptake of ICT solutions, projects that primarily focus on one or more of the following will be given a lower priority:
- hardware/IT upgrades;
- proposals led by ICT firms (developer led solutions) which do not address a clear SME shared business challenge;
- aim to benefit one company;
- development of proprietary products (where this limits opportunity for dissemination);
- simple websites / portals or online databases;
- simple system and software development;
- development of simple mobile or tablet applications;
- general ICT training and awareness raising projects; and/or
- areas where there is already a strong commercial interest or presence.
3.6 Other eligibility requirements
In addition, all applications must meet the following requirements:
- the project must not have started at the time of application;
- projects must be a stand alone and not a stage of a larger multi-stage project;
- the parties must not be in receipt of other Government financial support for the same activities;
- the parties must not share premises or have common ownership; and
- the project must be located and undertaken in Victoria.
KEY ASSESSMENT CRITERIA
All DFF applications will be assessed by an assessment panel convened by the Department against the following criteria. Successful applications will rate highly against the assessment criteria compared to other applications.
Need and purpose
- Does the project address a clearly identified shared business challenge?
- What evidence is provided to identify the business challenge and the need for an ICT solution that is not currently available?
- Explain why the DFF grant is needed, specifically:
- Demonstrate the extent of the project’s dependence on the DFF grant, including the likelihood of the project proceeding if the application is unsuccessful.
- Explain why the requested grant amount is required rather than a lesser amount.
- Explain how the grant will impact favourably on the scale or timing of the project.
- Outline whether other funding options have been pursued and the outcome.
- Outline the strategy for taking forward the next stage of the project beyond the funded activity.
- Does the project involve a minimum of three relevant parties, including two which are non-ICT SMEs facing a business challenge?
- Are all the partners’ roles and responsibilities clear?
- Have any of the partners worked together before – if so when/why?
- How “new” is the technology e.g. new to firm, new to industry, new to Victoria?
- How does the proposed solution differ from existing ICT-enabled solutions?
- How will the proposed ICT solution transform current business practices and encourage ongoing business innovation such as process, product, organisational and market innovation?
- What benefits will the project deliver to the SMEs (productivity gains or efficiencies in terms of less waste, energy, time, materials)?
- When and over what timescale are these benefits likely to be realised?
- What benefits will the project deliver to the other partners?
- How will the benefits be measured?
- What benefits will the project generate for other Victorian businesses and/or broader economic benefits to Victoria? How will they be measured?
- Will the project lead to the development of new ICT-enabled capabilities in
- Will the project outcomes be of relevance beyond the immediate project partners?
- How will the project partners support the dissemination of project information (for example, through participation in relevant industry networks)?
- Which sectors and who will likely benefit from the sharing of this knowledge?
Resources and delivery
- Do the partners have the appropriate mix of skills and technical knowledge to deliver the project?
- Do the partners have access to the required infrastructure and resources to deliver the project?
- Do the project partners have previous experience in successfully managing and delivering similar complex projects?
- Is the proposed project achievable and the project methodology, timelines and budget realistic?
The Department may apply different weighting to these criteria and may vary this weighting between Stage 1 and 2 of the application process.
Applications for grants are competitive and follow a two-stage process:
- Stage 1 – Expression of Interest (EoI)
Applicants outline the business challenge to be addressed, partners’ roles, key program elements and benefits to be delivered.
- Stage 2 – Business plan development
Shortlisted applicants expand on the information provided at Stage 1 including details of baseline data, how the project will be managed, partner roles, risks, detailed budget, key deliverables, milestones and expected outputs.
A diagram of the application process is outlined on page 12.
Applicants are encouraged to carefully consider their ability to meet the program requirements and key assessment criteria before committing resources to the application process. By being party to an application, all project partners must agree to be subject to the relevant probity and financial risk assessment checks.
5.2 How to apply
All EoI applications must be completed online at www.business.vic.gov.au/dff. Only applications submitted online will be accepted. No email applications will be accepted. Previous applicants are welcome to apply, noting the changes to the program guidelines and application process from Round One.
Irrespective of eligibility there is no guarantee that an offer of funding will be made in part or full. If necessary, applicants will be contacted by the Department to confirm or clarify information provided.
5.3 Lead organisation
All applications must be submitted by a lead organisation on behalf of the project partners. The lead organisation must:
- be based in Victoria;
- possess an Australian Business Number or Australian Company Number;
- achieve a satisfactory financial risk assessment; and
- agree to comply with the Department’s grant, performance monitoring and evaluation conditions.
The lead organisation will be responsible for submitting all applications to the program and administering the grant funding for and on behalf of the project partners pursuant to a grant agreement with the Department. The lead organisation will be responsible for ensuring all project partners honour their proposed cash and in-kind contributions to deliver the project.
5.4 Business plan grants
Shortlisted EoI applicants will be eligible for a grant of up to $20,000 (ex GST) to support the development of a business plan at Stage 2.
Treadstone can assist you with your stage 2 grant applications, call us on 030 9008 5937.
Lead organisations must apply for a business plan grant as part of Stage 1 by completing the relevant section of the application form. Applicants will be required to indicate the level of financial support required to complete the business plan and must provide a detailed cost breakdown for each element of business plan development. Failure to request a business plan grant at Stage 1 will result in the application being ineligible for this funding.
Business plan grant funding may only be applied to expenditure related to producing a business plan, such as staff time to write the plan or professional advice. Eligible expenditure items include:
- staff salary costs; and
- professional services, such as advice on change management, project management or ICT.
Business plan grant funding may not to be used to implement any element of the proposed project.
The level of business plan financial support provided will be determined by the assessment panel subject to the following considerations:
- applicants will be expected to possess some existing capability in business plan development and project management skills; and
- the level of financial support available for preparation of business plans will reflect the value proposition, complexity and risk of the project identified in Stage 1.
The Department reserves the right to determine an alternative amount than that requested.
If a project is shortlisted to proceed to Stage 2, and approved for a business plan grant, the lead organisation will be required to execute a grant agreement with the Department.
5.5 Financial Risk Assessments
Financial Risk Assessments (FRA) are undertaken by the Department to establish the financial risk exposure of the applicant and whether the applicant is likely to remain financially viable over the duration of the project.
The lead organisation will be subject to an FRA prior to the award of a business plan grant. To undertake the FRA the Department will require the following information:
- financial report for the years ended 30 June 2010, 2011 and 2012; and
- a copy of the latest interim financial statements for the current year (ending 30 June 2013) including Profit & Loss and Balance Sheet.
Applicants are not required to submit financial records at the time of EoI submission. The Department will request these documents in the event of a project being shortlisted. Failure to provide all relevant documentation within a reasonable timeframe may result in the proposal being dropped from the shortlist.
Should the business plan application be considered for award of a full DFF grant, the Stage 1 FRA documentation will be required to be updated for the lead organisation to include:
- financial projections – Profit & Loss and Cash Flows or project feasibility study; and
- up to date financial or the latest interim financial statements of the lead organisation at the time of the Stage 2 application or a financial report for the year ended 30 June 2013 if this is available.
Any significant funding contributor to the application, in addition to the lead organisation, may also be required to submit to an FRA. The Department reserves the right to determine who comprises significant co-contributors to the project.
Closing Date for Stage 1 EOI
Applications for this round close at 2pm on Wednesday 7 March 2013. Successful projects from Round 1 of the Digital Futures Fund will be announced in early 2013.
Grant Writing Assistance
For more information about how Treadstone can assist you with your grant applications, call us for a confidential discussion on (03) 9008 5937.