The New Zealand Government uses grants and other funding mechanisms as tools to drive a wide range of strategic objectives such as innovation, R&D, economic and cultural development. These grants can only be successful at delivering these aims when they get in the hands of the right businesses, at the right time.
Currently, start-ups or established companies looking to grow, innovate, or move into new fields, can spend a lot of time understanding funding options. This means researching across multiple government-funded organisations for what grants are available, deciphering application cut-off dates, establishing if there are funds left in the grant pool, and then determining whether they meet the criteria.
Even once a relevant grant pool is found, businesses often struggle with the application process, which often involve formulating a business plan or writing reports in a particular, prescribed way.
This opportunity is about making it easier for businesses to find grants that suit their business, and then promote greater success in the application process.
Anisha has been working at an exciting tech start-up for the past four years and has now decided to start her own business developing software that makes existing content and apps more accessible to people with visual or hearing impairment.
She started her search on google to see what grants are available to help fund her research and development. There were hundreds of government and commercial websites coming up under the search results and it was unclear what each fund was aimed at, and if she would meet the criteria.
Anisha picked a government website as a starting point, but soon realised this particular agency was probably not the right organisation to help her business. Confused, she asked a colleague and picked an organisation she thought might fit her needs.
Although she found the grant providers to be helpful, it was only once she was quite far through the application process that she realised that she would be unable to meet some of the core requirements. It was a long journey to go through, to then be told “you’re not ready” and the way it was written didn’t meet their requirements.
What Anisha would have loved is to have somewhere that could answer all of these questions ahead of time: what funds are currently available and who provides this? Is there money still available in the fund? What are the criteria I have to meet to access the fund? How can I be successful when applying? What are my obligations should my application be successful? Most of all, she wanted help preparing the application.
- Grants are offered by a wide range of government-funded organisations, but finding and navigating these providers is difficult.
- The criteria or requirements for grants are often not always explicit on first research, and requires engagement with the organisation to better understand and test if this is right for the business.
- There is no visibility of the level of funds left in a grant pool, meaning businesses may work up an application when there are no funds available.
- Some businesses struggle to meet the reporting or compliance requirements required to receive a grant (e.g. business plans, cash flow forecasts etc.). This can prevent a business from taking a great idea forward.
- The application and compliance requirements for grants are often similar regardless of the size of funding. This impacts smaller businesses as they have to divert resource from daily business activities to administer the grant conditions.
For grant providers:
- Time is spent educating businesses about the grant criteria and requirements for businesses, who ultimately aren’t the right fit.
- Additional supervision is required when businesses are not confident with administration tasks required under the grant.
- Low awareness of some grants and funding organisations impacts the ability of the organisations to meet the strategic objectives.
Why is this the right time?
The Government has committed significant funds through each grant pool to deliver a wide variety of strategic objectives; but if the grants don’t get allocated to the right people at the right time these objectives will not be achieved.
Recent all-of-government research shows that significant numbers of businesses in the manufacturing and technology sectors are struggling to identify and apply for funding that will suit their business and their current stage of growth. These businesses are asking for help in this area and will be ready to embrace a solution which reduces the time and effort taken to work through the grants application process.
What does success look like
A successful solution would provide businesses with a clear view of the grant opportunities open to them and how to access this funding. Businesses will see less wasted time searching for these opportunities as they will be presented in one place with clear articulation of the criteria and application steps. Additionally there will be support to develop their business capability to meet the additional compliance requirements associated with the grants – such as the development of business cases and ongoing progress reporting.
Grant providers will manage less queries and more clean, successful applications as businesses become better aware of what is the ‘right fit’, and the capability of the businesses to support receipt of the grant increases. This will lead to better delivery of the strategic intentions of the grant pool.
A solution to this problem would:
- Be the first point of contact for businesses when they are looking for funding to grow or innovate
- Give customers access to services that help them to determine what grants are available for their business at their stage of development e.g. Ideation, start up vs established
- Identify, up front, the time and compliance commitments required for an application
- Track funding cycles to ensure that applications aren’t lodged for empty grant pools
- Grow or support capabilities in the business required to be ready to receive grant funding (eg, business case development, financial tracking etc.)
- Help businesses see opportunities and how to get to new levels where they don’t currently meet funding criteria