Industry Growth Program grants open, industry partners funded

Brandon How

Small to medium-sized enterprises and startups can now access a share of $287 million in Industry Growth Program funding, with the grants opening to applications following the appointment of the industry organisations that will provide advisory services.

The four Industry Partner Organisations (IPO), announced as the grants opened on Thursday, will share in $6.9 million over two years, offering industry connections, access to specialised facilities, and education and training.

The IPOs are life sciences innovation accelerator MTPConnect, the Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing (ARM) Hub, the Food and Agribusiness Network (FAN), and Hydrogen Mobility Australia – a Australian Hydrogen Council subsidiary.

The ARM Hub has been awarded the maximum IPO grant of $2 million to establish the Australian Manufacturing Capability Network as an IPO. The network also includes the CSIRO, Flinders University, Swinburne University, and the Queensland government.

MTPConnect will use its almost $2 million grant for “accelerator services and IGP support for medical science SMEs”, while FAN will establish ClusterConnect to facilitate collaboration and commercialisation pathways for food and agribusiness SMEs, also for around $2 million.

The final $920,000 that has been committed to Hydrogen Mobility Australia which, along with Cicada Innovations and Climate Salad, will run AusHETS which is focused on supporting the hydrogen equipment, tech, and services sector.

The committed funding leaves $3.9 million of the original $10.8 million uncommitted. A Department of Industry, Science, and Resources spokesperson did not say what the uncommitted funding would be used for.

Overall, the department received 122 applications to the IPO grant opportunity, the spokesperson said.

The IPOs will provide specialised advisory services to the SMEs and startups that receive the grants. Of the $287 million available across the two programs, there has been no set amount earmarked for either stream exclusively.

Applications for grants worth up to $250,000 through the Early-Stage Commercialisation grant stream and up to $5 million through the Commercialisation and Growth program comes almost a year after the IGP was funded.

The opening of the grant streams and the announcement of four IPOs also comes more than five months after the IGP opened to applications seeking commercialisation advice from individual IGP advisers.

For SMEs that are operating in the industry priorities of the $15 billion National Reconstruction Fund and are looking to get their own grants through the IGP, applications to the two streams will be open continuosly with assessments to be undertaken roughly every six weeks.

In a statement, Industry and Science minister Ed Husic said the IGP is about “filling in the “missing middle”, growing small startups into bigger startups so they can go to the NRF with an investment-ready proposal”.

“More than 340 businesses have already accessed the advice side of the IGP, showing a healthy pipeline of new know-how that’s ready for commercialisation,” Mr Husic said.

“The grants we’re opening today are all about taking that next step.”

ARM Hub chief executive and founder Professor Cori Stewart said the IGP is an important program for addressing local industry’s “scale-up challenge resulting in a ‘missing middle’ of ambitious export-orientated SMEs and startups”.

“Small business – which accounts for 93 per cent of all Australian business – have low levels of free cash flow and human resources that limit their capacity to invest in adopting and scaling innovation,” Professor Stewart said.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include comment from the Department of Industry, Science, and Resources as well as other additional information. 

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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