Following our post about the launch of the Victorian Government’s Public Sector Innovation Fund, today we’re reprising and updating one of our earlier posts looking at tips for successfully applying for government grants.
It might not surprise you to learn that applications for government grants are assessed very similarly to tenders – that is, responses are weighted and scored according to specific pre-determined criteria and success is therefore largely dependent on answering the questions well.
I’d first like to raise your attention to our “10 tips for Winning Government Business” (available as a free ebook when you subscribe to our newsletter at the bottom of the page), which apply almost equally as well for grant applications as they do for tenders. The 10 tips represent very simple, yet powerful tips that help businesses improve the quality of their response – and therefore the scoring of their response.
Having said that, grant applications are not the same as tenders or quotations, and so have their own nuances that must be understood and taken into account. Grants are primarily a vehicle for government to:
- support industry development, and/or
- deliver against published government policies and programs.
Businesses would therefore do well to understand how these translate into the criteria for evaluation of a grant. Here are a few tips for you to consider when applying.
Read the conditions of the grant carefully
The primary eligibility criteria for a grant proposal relate to whether the supplicant business falls within the appropriate geographic location, and whether its size and revenue fall within the target band.
In most cases, governments will prefer to award government grants to businesses that have a minimum of 50% of primary operations within the jurisdiction of the government body issuing the grant. However, in the case of innovation grants, 100% of the R&D behind the innovation must usually also occur in that same jurisdiction.
Furthermore, since many government grants are in place to provide growth opportunities for small to medium enterprises (SMEs), the size and revenue of a business is often a primary criterion in evaluating grants.
Understand the strategic intent of the grant
The next main criterion relates to the fit of the proposal with the strategic intent of the grant.
As an example, some government grants are in place to encourage organisations to propose solutions to a stated government need, such as the Public Sector Innovation Fund. Grant funding would then be provided for a business to further develop an innovative product or service that, once commercialised, would deliver against that specified government program.
Grants such as those available under the wider Premier’s Jobs and Investment Panel or Launch Vic are also available for companies to deliver against a range of external government policies:
- Supporting an efficient SME sector through infrastructure and business support
- Delivering productivity gains
- Delivering economic growth under one of the government’s six identified sectors primed for growth
- Delivering community benefits
- Supporting other health, education, transport policies that are considered core government policies
With this in mind, it is important that you thoroughly review and understand the underlying government or policy or program requirement. The assessment of how well your solution supports government policies/programs will be a key criterion.
What can you offer government in return?
It is likely the government entity awarding the grant will also consider its investment more broadly, so businesses need to think about what they bring to the table.
For instance, how viable is your business? Yes, the grant is there to support growth of the SME sector, but it’s also important for a government to be dealing with a business that is financially viable with a strong growth outlook.
Government will want to make sure a business is not entirely reliant on the grant funding and has other growth opportunities, including in non-government sectors. The business must also have sufficient resources to further develop the product or service in question, as well as commercialise it in other markets.
Government will also assess the available opportunities to transfer knowledge, skills and expertise – both to industries within its purview and internally to government. A key aspect of the industry development supported by such grants is this transfer of knowledge and expertise (although not intellectual property).
What are the intrinsic merits of your application?
Finally, a grant assessment then takes into account the relative merits of the proposed product or service itself. The assessment considers:
- The prior level of product development required by the grant (for example to prototype stage but not yet full production).
- Experience and expertise of the organisation and resources supporting the product or service
- Secondary uses of the product or service to support wider government and economic aims
- Project management and implementation methodology to support further development of the grant and its implementation within government, industry or the community
- Complementary funding avenues (including the organisation’s own funding, in kind support, sponsorship, etc)
- Level of innovation and product/service differentiation. You are more likely to be successful in achieving grant funding if you can demonstrate your product or service is unique and can’t be easily replicated within industry. To support this, discuss the background of your product or service; for instance, what led to the generation of the idea and lack of viable alternatives in the market to deliver the same outcome.
- Benefit of the product or service
As a final note, don’t assume any knowledge of your product or service, its function, its benefit or its relevance to government and government programs. Describe these aspects in detail and in doing so communicate to government why your proposal is the best fit for government grant funding.