From today (7 December 2011) Australian entrepreneurs will not have to repay the program’s Early Stage Commercialisation grants. Additionally, these grants will be available to more businesses, with the maximum annual turnover permitted by eligible applicants has risen from $20 million to $50 million.
In addition, growing businesses that can benefit from access to skilled managers will now be able to apply for an Experienced Executives grant of up to $350,000, increased from $200,000.
Announcing these changes to Commercialisation Australia's grants, Senator Carr said that they would give Australian inventions a better chance of flourishing in the market place.
Further changes appear to be in the air, with the Minister also announcing that, from early 2012, eligible expenditure guidelines for Early Stage Commercialisation grants will be amended to provide broader support for the development of pilot manufacturing plants and innovative manufacturing facilities.
COMMERCIALISATION AUSTRALIA GRANTSCommercialisation Australia administers a grant system which provides four levels of support, designed for companies at different stages of the innovation process. It was formed in 2009, and has funding of $278 million over the five years to 2014, with ongoing funding of $82 million a year thereafter.
Skills and Knowledge grants provide up to $50,000 to fund expert advice and services over a period of up to 12 months (reduced from up to two years previously). The recipient of the grant must fund 20% of the project, and must be a company with less than $10 million annual turnover. The grants are ‘aimed at assisting people new to commercialisation - researchers, entrepreneurs and small companies who know their product, process or service has commercial potential, but don't know what to do next.’
Proof of Concept grants provide between $50,000 and $200,000 to support activities proving commercial viability (but not including R&D). Again, the grants are available for projects running up to 12 months, and are available to companies with annual turnover of up to $10 million. The recipient must contribute 50% of the project funding. The money may be spent on activities including, but not limited to, product development and prototyping, market validation and execution of IP strategy.
Early Stage Commercialisation grants provide between $50,000 and $2 million to assist in bringing a new product to market. These grants used to become repayable upon reaching a specified sales target for the new product, however the repayment requirement is now removed. Projects can be up to 24 months in duration, and companies with up to $50 million annual turnover (formerly $20 million) are eligible to apply. The recipient must contribute 50% of the project cost.
Finally, Experienced Executives grants provide up to $350,000 (formerly $200,000) to engage an experienced Chief Executive Officer or other senior executive for up to two years. To be eligible, companies must have an annual turnover of less that $10 million dollars, and must contribute 50% of the total funding.
In a further change commencing on 7 December 2011, registering a trade mark or design is now eligible expenditure under the Proof of Concept and Early Stage Commercialisation programs. Costs associated with obtaining IP advice and the preparation of patent applications have previously been, and remain, eligible expenditure under the Skills and Knowledge grant program.
IMPACT ON EXISTING GRANT-HOLDERSExisting recipients of Early Stage Commercialisation grants will automatically have the benefit of the removal of the repayment requirement so long as they have not yet reached the previously-established sales target. Existing recipients who have already reached their sales target, and have commenced repayment, will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
The increased maximum grant size for Experience Executives grants will be available to existing recipients by application for increased funding.
Existing Proof of Concept and Early Stage Commercialisation grant recipients, however, will not be able to use their current funding for trade mark or design registration costs.
According to the Minister’s press release, ‘almost 180 innovators have already benefited from grants of $71.7 million from Commercialisation Australia, as well as expert advice from experienced case managers, to help turn their inventions into marketable products and services.’