As its name suggests, the Entrepreneurs’ Infrastructure Programme provides the support businesses need so that entrepreneurship can flourish, writes programme director Doron Ben-Meir.
As a serial entrepreneur, and having met and supported hundreds of Australian businesses both as a venture capital investor and as a senior executive of the Department of Industry, I know the path to business success is never easy. The text books present a multiplicity of tasks, problems and obstacles in building a business but the central challenge for any entrepreneur may be summarised very simply…one needs to reach the right people at the right time. The right customers, the right employees, the right service providers, the right partners, the right investors…and time is money!
The $484.2 million Entrepreneurs’ Infrastructure Programme aims to help new and established businesses meet this challenge. The programme is the Australian Government’s flagship initiative for improving business competitiveness and productivity at the firm level. It is a key component of the Industry Innovation and Competitiveness Agenda, which is the Government’s action strategy to build a strong and prosperous economy. The guiding principle of the agenda is to focus on Australia’s strengths, not to prop up poor performers.
In keeping with this, the Entrepreneurs’ Infrastructure Programme’s focus is on providing expert advice and connecting businesses with networks, experts and investors, rather than only offering financial assistance.
The Entrepreneurs’ Infrastructure Programme has three elements:
- Business Management, providing support for business improvement and growth
- Research Connections, helping small and medium businesses collaborate with the research sector to develop new ideas with commercial potential
- Accelerating Commercialisation, helping entrepreneurs, researchers and start-ups address key challenges in the commercialisation pathway of bringing new products, processes and services to the market.
These elements provide comprehensive support in the areas that are crucial for business success and growth.
The programme is delivered by a single business service, which is streamlining government business assistance through the business.gov.au website and the 13 28 46 contact centre, with expert, face-to-face assistance available from the AusIndustry network of advisers.
The Entrepreneurs’ Infrastructure Programme aims to help businesses grow and succeed. It provides tiered support, with the intensity of assistance increasing as the high-growth potential of a business becomes apparent. At this later stage, when a business has worked closely with their business adviser, grants are available. These are awarded on a merit basis, with the applicant required to match funding.
For example, Research Connections provides grants of up to $50,000 after a business has gone through a facilitation process, to help fund specific, identified activities like bringing a researcher into a business.
In the case of Accelerating Commercialisation, with grant funding of up to $1 million available, the application process is also competitive – recognising that a limited funding pool must be focused on the highest quality projects.
The Accelerating Commercialisation element of the programme opened 1 November. It offers services and grants to eligible entrepreneurs, researchers, inventors, start-ups and small and medium sized businesses. The programme aims to help these groups bring their novel products, services and technologies to market as quickly as possible, increasing their prospects for success.
Accelerating Commercialisation has five core components:
- Independent, professional Commercialisation Advisers who help participants become investor and market ready
- Matched grants of up to $1 million for commercialisation activities
- A curated Portfolio of companies with high growth potential bringing qualified commercialisation opportunities together for maximum visibility and credibility
- An Expert Network of successful entrepreneurs, domain experts, professional investors and strategic corporations offering participants access to key business connections and opportunities to develop their businesses, enter new markets and raise smart capital. Over time the depth and breadth of this network will grow resulting in a continuously improving source of value addition for Portfolio companies.
- Promotional opportunities through in-bound and out-bound domestic and international roadshows and trade missions to ensure that Australia’s success stories and best commercialisation prospects are marketed globally.
An important feature of Accelerating Commercialisation is the creation of a Portfolio of companies that are undertaking early-stage commercialisation activities. The Portfolio will create opportunities for businesses with high-potential to receive greater visibility and credibility, especially with investors, other entrepreneurs, domain experts, supply chains and strategic corporations. Businesses chosen for the Portfolio, for example, will have access to networking events, exposure to international trade missions and opportunities to join Australian delegations to major global events.
Accelerating Commercialisation, and the Entrepreneurs’ Infrastructure Programme in general, work to foster innovation and entrepreneurship by building strong and self-reliant businesses. The programme is a central part of the Government’s industry policy which recognises that Government plays an important role in establishing supportive frameworks to maximise the probability that entrepreneurs and businesses will create and capitalise upon good opportunities - both for their own benefit and for the benefit of the Australian economy as a whole.