Thinking about grants as food for your venture 

August 26, 2022
By Andrew Outhwaite

Grants, like other forms of external investment, can be a powerful way to take your organisation to the next step, expand into new territories or bring a new innovation into reality. 

But with more than 6000 grants available in Australia, where do you even start? 

I was invited to outline the funding landscape and share advice on successful strategies for the Fremantle Chamber of Commerce’s monthly podcast, Set the Month in Motion, recently.

I was honoured to join the Chamber’s CEO Danicia Quinlan, Grant Guru’s Peter Jeffrey and Imagined Futures' Leigh Sinclair to discuss the opportunities and challenges in securing government grants, creating investment strategies and channels to fund growth.

Because I do a lot of ocean swimming and I’ve got a healthy appetite, I’m going to use the analogy of food. We can think about the different types of enterprises, and how they eat, like this: 

  • Businesses (carnivores): derive funding from paying customers, so they just hunt sales, 
  • Charities (vegetarians): receive funding from donors and government grants, so they are foraging from multiple sources,  
  • Social enterprises (omnivores): a mix of customers, donors and funders, so they have more options, but it's also complex. 

There is a huge variety of food (funding) available, but it’s important that you’re not just choosing fast food or the sugar hit - which grants (free money!) can appear to be. After all, applying for funding takes time, money and focus.

Rather, you should think about how grant funding aligns with where you want to go. Types of funding sources include: 

  1. Philanthropy (and friends, family and fools): often has less strings attached than grants, but there’s a different type of return they may be seeking. In the best case they just love you and want you to succeed,
     
  2. Investors, loans from banks or other lenders: similar in their alignment of success to yours, and often has an expected rate of return. 
     
  3. Grants from government or foundations: are almost always aiming to generate a social benefit, such as jobs, growth, export or environmental outcomes – and can help grow your business or charity as you deliver these. However, they often don’t want you to become dependent on their funding source and hope that you will continue doing this beyond the funding. They may also not care if your organisation kills itself delivering the outcome. They may just want the outcome.

What each of these sources have in common is they are seeking a specific purpose or outcome. It’s important to ensure your own purpose and outcomes align with the funders or investors.

Example diet for ocean ventures 

We’ve worked with two ventures operating in regional WA that have accessed a mix of funding and investment sources, including: 

  • Regional grants to help build new infrastructure 
  • Capital in return for equity through angel investment and IPO 
  • Grants and incentives for research and development, including through collaborative industry projects
  • Federal and state grants for: export market development, upgrading processes and attaining sustainability certifications 
  • Indirect grants through subsidised support programs, like Blue Gravity, to help progress their new ideas and initiatives, or find further sources of funding. 

Getting expert advice

Finally, in wrapping up this food funding analogy, sometimes it helps to have an expert diagnose your dietary needs and find a match with the huge number of available foods. 

At For Blue, we have our own database of more than 200 investment sources specific to ocean industries.

Applications are also open for Blue Gravity, a program helping ventures to accelerate commercialisation or their innovations through: being a one-stop shop for multiple specialist service providers, offering subsidies to access services, and helping identify the most appropriate sources of funding and investment. 

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