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Top 10 government grants for startups and small businesses

Have you ever wondered how to get a small business grant? There are several government business grants on both a state and federal level, and they’re a great way to kick-start your new ideas or grow your existing business.

What is a business grant?

Government business grants are available to eligible entrepreneurs, start-ups, home businesses and small to medium enterprises (SMEs) to help with growth. Most grants are usually for specific business projects rather than just funding for general business operations. Some grants involve financial assistance, but many offer help with training, expert advice, employment, expansion, research and development, and products commercialisation.

There are several State-based business incentives, however, for this article, we’re looking at government grants that are available Australia-wide.

The Entrepreneurs Programme

One of the best and most expansive government programs on offer is the Entrepreneurs Programme. It helps businesses to improve productivity through funding and access to a range of advisors and assistance programs. Some of the grants we discuss in more detail below actually form part of the Entrepreneurs Programme. Basically, this program is all about growth and market competitiveness, and up to $1 million of funding is available through various schemes.

Eligibility: Your business must be involved in the food and agriculture, mining, energy, advanced manufacturing or medical technology and pharmaceutical sectors. Or, if you’re in the Northern Territory, the tourism industry is also included. Learn more about eligibility on the Business government website.

Growth Grants


Growth Grants form part of the Entrepreneurs Programme, so you need to be eligible for that before you can receive any funding. If you’ve received assistance such as help creating a business plan or specific project roadmap, you can use Growth Grants to implement any activities suggested in your plan. The grants aren’t available to fix business problems, however, because they are specifically targeted to projects that increase your ability to trade. For eligible activities, you can receive up to 50% of project costs. The minimum is $2,500 and the maximum is $20,000.

Eligibility: Must be eligible for, and have received Growth services in the Entrepreneur Programme. The projects or activities must be new, have at least $5,000 in costs, engage services outside of your business and link to an area specified in your growth plan. Learn more about eligibility on the Business government website.

Accelerating Commercialisation

If you’ve got a new idea, product or service that you want to get to market, Accelerating Commercialisation is the grant for you. This incentive comes in two parts. Firstly, there is the commercialisation guidance, giving you expert advice on commercialisation, referrals to other types of government assistance and also some help with your grant application. Then there’s the actual grant, which provides up to 50% of your expenditure for the project. There is up to $1 million available for eligible entities.

Eligibility: It’s quite extensive, but in a nutshell, you need to be a legitimate Australian business with a novel product, service or process you want to commercialise. There’s also a test called the Turnover Test that you’ll need to satisfy and you must prove you can fund at least 50% of the project. Learn more about eligibility on the Business government website.

Research & Development Tax Incentive

Rather than being a straight cash grant, the Research & Development (R&D) Tax Incentive provides tax assistance for eligible research and development activities. So, if you’re running at a loss due to your R&D activities, you may be entitled to a 43.5% tax offset, which is paid as a cash rebate. The scheme is designed to encourage smaller entities to conduct valuable R&D that benefits Australia.

Eligibility: You’ll need to have an aggregated turnover of less than $20 million, and be participating in genuine R&D activities. Learn more about eligibility on the Business government website.

Export Market Development Grant

The Export Market Development Grant (EMDG) is designed for Australian SMEs who have already tested products or services in Australia and want to explore overseas markets. This is a terrific grant for businesses looking to expand their operations, as it offers a 50% reimbursement for activities promoting their goods and services to international markets. The grants start at $5,000 and are capped at $150,000.

Eligibility: Must have a total income less than $50 million, and you must be the principal in the export of goods, not an agent. That means the goods and services you’re selling must be yours, rather than on-selling someone else’s products. Learn more about eligibility on the Business government website.

Australian Apprentice Incentives Program

Under the Australian Apprenticeship Incentives Program (AAIP), businesses are encouraged to hire apprentices and provide quality training. Many SMEs benefit from having apprentices on hand to help with the workload. For businesses, it’s a lot cheaper than hiring a regular employee, plus you get the added benefit of training people in your business. The AAIP provides incentives ranging from $750 to $4000 annually, depending on the level of training provided.

Eligibility: You must have a training contract with your apprentice, and offer the training at Certificate II, III, IV, Diploma or Advanced Diploma level. Learn more about eligibility on the Business government website

CSIRO Kick-Start

The CSIRO Kick-Start program offers matched funding for start-ups and SMEs to access the CSIRO’s research expertise to help grow their business. In fact, it’s even great if you’re just starting a business. This is one of the best start up business grants, because it helps with growth opportunities such as:

  • Researching a new idea
  • Developing a novel or improved product
  • Testing products and processes

You can use the funding to help with researcher salaries, administrative costs and overheads, and access to external facilities, services or contractors.

Eligibility: You must be an Australian company registered for less than 3 years, registered for GST and with an annual turnover of less than $1.5 million. You must also be able to dollar-match the funding. Learn more about eligibility on the CSIRO website.

Landing Pads

Landing Pads is a little different from other small business grants, in that it doesn’t come with a direct cash incentive. However, it does offer a real benefit to start-ups and entrepreneurs who are ready to go to market. Through the Landing Pads scheme, start-ups are provided with a workspace for 90 days in a global innovation hub. This includes access to coaching, investors, training and networking opportunities. These hubs are based in Singapore, Tel Aviv, San Francisco, Berlin and Shanghai.

Eligibility: Start-ups applying or Landing Pads must be market-ready with an established product. You’ll also need to have a customer acquisition strategy and some genuine market leads. Learn more about eligibility on the Business government website.

Tourism Industry Regional Development Fund

The Tourism Industry Regional Development Fund is managed by states, so you’ll need to check eligibility requirements and opportunities with your state. However, overall, the scheme matches funding for eligible projects that improve tourism and accommodation facilities in regional Australia. Grants can range from $50,000 to $250,000.

Innovation Connections

The Innovation Connections scheme operates in two parts. Firstly, a business can apply for a Connections Facilitation. This provides you with a highly skilled business facilitator to help you understand your research needs. Once this step is completed, you may be eligible for a small business grant to assist with your research needs. If you decide to pursue a research project in collaboration with a Publicly Funded Research Organisation (PFRO), the grant subsidises bringing a researcher into your business, or placing a researcher from your business into a PFRO.

Eligibility: It’s worth checking the Innovations Connections eligibility criteria here, however basically you need to be a legitimately trading business, operating in one or more growth sectors. Your annual turnover must be between $1/5 million and $100 million.


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