Applications for the third round of the Boosting Female Founders program are set to open this week, with the federal government sticking with the same eligibility criteria for the controversial grants scheme.
Serious questions were raised about the scheme earlier this year, centred on whether many of the companies accessing money through it were actually “female-owned and run”, as required by the program’s eligibility guidelines.
The Industry Department promised to review the five largest grants from the second round of the program following questions by Labor Senators at a Senate Estimates hearing earlier this year.
Applications for the third round of the program will open on Friday, with grants of between $100,000 and $480,000 on offer for majority female-owned and led startups. The eligibility criteria for the third round is the same as for the second round.
To be eligible, a company needs to be at least 51 per cent owned and led by women, and must sign a declaration confirming this and that it will remain so for the length of the grant agreement.
This was the condition which has previously stirred controversy with the Boosting Female Founders program.
InnovationAus.com was contacted by a number of women and entrepreneurs who had become increasingly frustrated with the program, with some claiming that applicants which aren’t legitimately female-run and founded are receiving funding, and others are bending the rules to meet the criteria.
Labor Senators raised these concerns earlier this year, claiming that of the 10 largest grants from the second round of the program, five are questionable.
In response, Industry Department staff promised to review the eligibility of these companies.
The eligibility checking for the Boosting Female Founders program round two was outsourced to Canberra consultancy Synergy, which ruled that 500 of the 2500 applicants were ineligible.
The third round of the program will be delivered through a two-stage selection process, with an expression of interest process followed by a grant application.
Companies must also have a combined annual turnover of less than $20 million for each of the last three financial years to be eligible.
The Boosting Female Founders program was launched in 2018 and has $52.2 million in funding, with $23.5 million distributed in the first two rounds.
The second round of the program was also marred by an error by the Department which saw all applicants receive an email saying they had been successful in the initial stage and inviting them to submit a further application.
Hours later these applicants received a follow-up saying that they had actually been unsuccessful.
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