At the launch of the program in 2010, then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, wanted to “encourage all researchers, entrepreneurs and innovative firms to visit the website and get thinking about how this $196 million initiative could help turn their ideas into successful products and services”. So we thought it might be a good idea to let you know a bit about the program.
The Australian Government launched its new vehicle for providing assistance for the commercialisation of research and innovations for the benefit of all Australians under the new Commercialisation Australia organisation. This vehicle replaces the old COMET grant system.
Commercialisation Australia wants to partner with organisations and individuals to assist in the commercialisation of innovative ideas and research. All participants in the program will work with an assigned case manager to guide them through the commercialisation process by
- assisting them identify the skills and knowledge they need
- helping them access specialist advice and services
- identifying and linking them with appropriate Volunteer Business Mentors
- assisting them develop professional networks
- providing strategic and operational advice
- monitoring their progress
There are three (3) stages of support that align with the early stages of commercialisation are provided through Commercialisation Australia.
Skills and Knowledge support
- providing funds of up to $50,000 to purchase specialist advice and services to assist in the commercialisation process to match funding on a 80:20 basis (where the applicant funds 20% of the costs)
- providing funds of up to $200,000 over 2 years to assist in the recruitment of experienced executives
Proof of Concept grants
Early Stage Commercialisation repayable grants
What’s the bad news?
Now there is always a catch with funding whether from the government, investment angels or any other source.
Various eligibility criteria need to be met by the applicant including;
- the applicant must have the ability to fund their share of the project costs;
- the project must aim to produce, establish the commercial viability of or commercialise a new, clearly identified product, process or service; and it must involve eligible activities
- the application needs to be complete, detailed and in the right form (of course!)
Medium and large companies with turnovers above $10 million will be excluded ($20 million turnover for Early Stage Commercialisation repayable grants).
Assistance provided through Commercialisation Australia has Merit criteria which need to be the focus of a submission for assistance by all applicants based on;
- need for funding
- commercial plans and potential
- market opportunity
- management capability
- national benefits
Documented evidence that the applicant has the ability to fund their contribution to the activities is required and this will involve providing independent financial evidence from your financial advisor in your application.
IP management and ownership is a critical component of any commercialisation venture, and this is recognised in the arrangements for funding. The initial and ongoing ownership and management of the IP is subject to a range of requirements that need to be established with Commercialisation Australia, especially in cases where the IP developed during the venture will not be wholly owned by the applicant.
Something that you also need to be aware of is the strict definitions of eligible expenditure to which the funds can be applied (both the government’s and the applicants contributions) as they don’t cover the full range of expenses that are encountered in a commercialisation venture. In any case, we cannot foresee that funding from Commercialisation Australia will be significant enough to be the major source of funding for a commercialisation venture.
Part of the assessment of an application against the “need for funding” merit criteria involves providing evidence that an applicant has been unable to secure funding by other means and we can see it will be interesting to see how they will apply the criteria when the majority of funding needs to be and will be raised by other means.
Still, with new legislation, a new organisation, and new process, there will always be interpretations and procedures that need to be developed and monitored.
Reporting on the activities is required to be provided quarterly until the end of the funding period with annual reports required for the following 5 years.
Where to start?… the next step
For a start, you can download the Customer Information Guide here. This guide provides the complete detail and background to the funding programs, including a lot of information on what is and isn’t eligible expenditure, and is a good place to start. The website also includes streamlined fact sheets that summarise the aspects of the funding assistance (but beware the fine print).
To start an application, a pre-application form is required to be completed. This will establish a link with a case manager who will then work through your requirements and suitability for assistance. Applications then need to be submitted and Commercialisation undertake to deliver a decision on the application within 45 days of the application date.
If you want to look at the offering in detail you can go straight to www.commercialisationaustralia.gov.au or give them a call on 13 22 56.
Commercialisation Australia has received over 260 pre-application submissions in the first few weeks of operation and so it appears to have a significant attraction to the innovators, researchers and entrepreneurs out there.
Make sure that you get your funding in order before you start the project as costs only count when incurred after the project start date.
It will be interesting to see the type of projects and ventures that are the first to receive funding when it is announced.