NSW govt cuts innovation grants, trims others

A handful of industry and innovation grant programs put on hold by the New South Wales government earlier this year are set to restart with reduced funding in the wake of this week’s state Budget.

The popular MVP Ventures Program is among the grant programs to have been saved from the scrap heap following widespread criticism from the startup community amid a turbulent business environment.

But other programs have not been as lucky, with the government opting to abandon several initiatives to help free up $13 billion and put the state on track to post a small surplus next financial year.

Sydney’s Tech Central district. Image: Investment NSW

In mid-May, the newly minted Minns government put around $227 million worth of industry and innovation grant programs on hold, pending a review aimed at finding potential savings ahead of the state Budget.

Applicants to the MVP Ventures Program, the NSW Future Industries Investment Program, Infrastructure Build Out Program, National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS) Support Program and Biosciences Fund, were informed of the pause from May 23.

It later emerged, however, that several other programs had been caught up in the review, including the Small Business and Research (SBIR) Program and the Tech Central Scale Up Accommodation Rebate.

The move was poorly received by the startup community and the state Opposition, who have criticised the government for the uncertainty that pausing the grants created at a time when accessing venture capital is difficult for early-stage companies.

Details on the future of programs like MVP Ventures were conspicuously absent from Budget papers handed down on Tuesday, despite disclosing other cuts to grant programs due to the Comprehensive Expenditure Review, including the at least part of the $703 million Future Economy Fund.

But a spokesperson for Minister for Innovation, Science and Technology Anoulack Chanthivong has now confirmed that targeted support will continue for at least five programs, including the MVP Ventures Program.

The decision to pause the MVP Ventures Program, which offers early-stage startups matched funding of up to $200,000 to support the commercialisation of their offerings, was heavily criticised by startup founders in May, with one describing it as a “kick in the guts”.

Support will also continue through the Boosting Business Innovation Program/TechVouchers, NCRIS Support Program, and NSW BioSciences Fund, though a smaller funding envelope will available to startups.

Programs that remain unaccounted for include the $30 million NSW Future Industries Investment Program – which forms part of the reprofiled Future Economy Fund – and the $31 million Infrastructure Build Out Program – part of the Innovation Research Acceleration Program.

The future of the $24 million SBIR Program, which aims to bridge the funding valley of death for early-stage startups and is based on a successful long-running program of the same name in the United States, is also unclear, although  cuts were foreshadowed ahead of the Budget.

Innovation, Science and Technology minister Anoulack Chanthivong last week said the program was one of the unannounced cuts made by the former Coalition government prior to its departure earlier this year.

The aforementioned Future Economy Fund, the Jobs Plus Program Research Acceleration and Attraction Program, and the Bushfire Response R&D Mission were the other programs overseen by Investment NSW said to be among the cuts.

InnovationAus.com also understands that that Tech Central Scale Up Accommodation Rebate, which closed during the pre-Budget review, will not be revived. When the rebate was paused, 11 of the 37 applicants had been successful.

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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