The federal government is preparing to hand out $182 million to potential partners to help deliver and promote its Entrepreneurs’ Programme after a significant refocusing of the flagship scheme.
The Department of Industry, Innovation and Science issued a request for tender last week for delivery partners to offer “expert business advisory and facilitation services to eligible buinesses for the Entrepreneurs’ Programme”.
The Entrepreneurs’ Programme is a “flagship initiative for business competitiveness and productivity” that was launched as part of former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s National Innovation and Science Agenda in late 2015.
It has four elements: business management, incubator support, innovation connections and accelerating commercialisation.
The government has a $182 million budget for the 10 providers it expects to select, with the aim to form a national network of partners to promote the various programs and work with businesses taking part in them.
“The programme needs strong, collaborative and constructive partnerships with delivery partners who will use their knowledge, resources and networks to support a national approach to delivering expert business advisory and facilitation assistance within the small and medium-sized enterprises ecosystem,” the tender document said.
“A comprehensive national network of suitably qualified organisations will be engaged to deliver services for all programme elements. Service delivery will require collaboration and cooperation between delivery partners for customers where this will deliver the best outcome for those businesses.”
The applicants must deliver business advisory and facilitation services to businesses eligible for the Entrepreneurs’ Programme, including startups, and promote the program through marketing and communication.
The contract for the 10 providers would run from July 2020 to June 2023, with two one-year extension options. The department expects to have the contracts signed by February next year.
The federal budget this year saw the Coalition cut an additional $9.9 million from the Entrepreneurs’ Programme after the program had also been cut the previous year.
In July last year, the Department began a review of the program, with a series of changes made to its management and administration.
The new operating model was put into effect last May, just before the federal election.
The department said the new model was “customer centred and focuses clearly on the outcomes of business growth, innovation and commercialisation”.
A number of private companies helped with the redesign, including the AI Group, Deloitte and DNA Innovation.
Labor had planned to slash the Entrepreneurs’ Programme in half if it had won the May election, with plans to cut $300 million from it and the Industry Growth Centres.
Industry minister Karen Andrews hit back at the Opposition for this, labeling the programme a “key plank in economic growth and job creation” that has dished out more than 300 grants worth nearly $170 million.