Innovation Connect Guidelines
Innovation Connect is an ACT Government program that provides matched-funding support for smaller, technology focused Canberra based start-ups and entrepreneurs to accelerate viable, innovative ideas along the commercialisation pathway.
Innovation Connect is a round-based competitive grants program with funding from $5,000 to $30,000 available to assist you in proving your concept (e.g. developing a prototype or market testing your solution).
To be eligible to receive an Innovation Connect grant a start-up / business must have:
- an annual turnover of less than $2 million
- operations based in Canberra
- an Australian Business Number (ABN) (by the time the grant is awarded)
The business must also be prepared to enter into a formal Deed of Grant with the ACT Government. A sample can be found here
Innovation Connect Grants can provide support for projects that prove the technical or commercial feasibility of a concept or technology.
- development of a prototype
- development of functional software
- professional development of a formal marketing strategy
- professional market testing
- professional IP and patenting advice
- legal advice related specifically to the project
If you believe that you, or an employee, have the required skills and experience to undertake aspects of the project (as opposed to outsourcing to a third party) you are able to claim your time as part of the grant funds. This would need to be negotiated and an hourly rate agreed to prior to commencing the grant. You would also be required to demonstrate that the hourly rate to be claimed is reasonable and in line with market rates and your experience and where possible provide quotes from professional suppliers demonstrating value for money.
What will not be Funded
Innovation Connect grant funding cannot support:
- business set up costs (registration, finance systems, office space, supplies etc)
- generic marketing and promotional activities
- printing of promotional material including brochures and business cards
- membership costs of industry organisations or groups
- website design not specifically related to the innovation
- third party business plan development
- travel or accommodation expenses
- the purchase of hardware, equipment or consumables not directly related to the prototype development
- expenses incurred prior to signing the Deed of Grant.
These activities cannot be funded from grant funds awarded. They can however be claimed as part of your matched funding requirements, as long as they occurred during the term of the grant.
Applications will be assessed against the extent to which they demonstrate that:
- the project develops a product or service that is genuinely innovative in that it has the potential to take advantage of new markets or disrupt existing markets;
- the applicant has and/or can access the necessary expertise to deliver the project and continue to grow the business to achieve the longer-term objectives stated in the application;
- the applicant’s business growth as a result of the project will lead to Economic Development benefits for the ACT and region. Renewables Stream applicants should also note how the project will contribute to the ACT Government’s vision for the Territory as an export-oriented hub for renewable energy innovation and investment; and
- there is a genuine need for the funding and that the project is less likely to be completed or will be significantly delayed without the funding.
The ACT Government may elect to progress applications that align to Government policies and programs.
Grants range from $5,000 to $30,000 and must to be matched dollar for dollar.
Successful applicants may be awarded an amount other than the amount requested in their application. All Innovation Connect grants are awarded on a matched-funding basis. For example, an applicant awarded funding of $20,000 is required to also contribute $20,000 towards the project. The matched-funding component can comprise purchased goods and services (cash expenditure), in-kind contributions (i.e. the value of the applicant’s work time) or a combination of both. Matched-funding contributions must occur during the funded project and not prior.
No more than $30,000 will be approved for funding to an applicant over a twelve month period.
Concurrent grants cannot be funded. The existing grant must be completed before another request for funding can be considered. A start-up or business will not be funded more than once for the same or very similar innovation.
Market Ready Program
Successful applicant from either funding stream may also be offered training under the Market Ready Program, delivered by the CBR Innovation Network in partnership with Lighthouse Business Innovation Centre. The Market Ready Program will be tailored to the needs of the start-up / business and consists of a series of Lean Start-up workshops, business mentoring and one-on-one meetings. For selected participants the Market Ready Program will be run concurrently with the grant and commence once a Deed of Grant has been signed. For selected participants an information session will be held before the commencement of the program.
The commercial value of this training is $5,000. The Innovation Connect Assessment Panel will recommend grantees that would benefit from the Market Ready Program. The ACT Government will meet the costs of participation in the Market Ready Program – it will not be drawn from the awarded grant funding.
Applications are assessed through a competitive, two stage process consisting of a video pitch submission at the Expression of Interest (EOI) stage and a more detailed application and face-to-face presentation at the Application Stage.
An Innovation Connect Assessment Panel comprised of independent experts rank the EOI’s and applications at both stages in conjunction with key ACT Government officials, making recommendations for funding to the Delegate.
- Submission of EOI, incorporating a 90 second video pitch and online form
- EOI’s assessed
- All applicants advised of the outcome of the EOI process. Applicants successful in reaching the Application stage (stage 2) will be provided with access to the online Application form
The 90 second video pitch must provide the information contained in the Entrepreneurs Pitch Guide, though not necessarily in the same order. Any video capture hardware or software can be used and the resultant video must be uploaded to a YouTube/Vimeo channel and the URL shared with Innovation Connect via the SmartyGrants EOI form. We advise that you make your video private but not password protected. Please go to YouTube/Vimeo for guidance on how to do this.
Video pitches need not demonstrate high production qualities. Only the content in the pitch will be assessed, not the quality of the video, the acting skills displayed or the images in it.
Application Process – Stage 2
Following the EOI stage, shortlisted applicants will be invited to complete an online Application which includes detail on the market, competitors, external validation, economic benefits and financial projections. The application should consider the project timeline, possible milestones and the amount of funding each stage will require – being mindful that some milestones will be paid in arrears you will need to properly manage your cash flow (discussed in the ‘Grant Payment’ section below).
The Application Process culminates with an in-person pitch to the Innovation Connect Assessment Panel.
- Submission of online Application
- In-person pitch with the Innovation Connect Assessment Panel
- Successful grant recipients notified and Deed of Grant entered into.
If deemed necessary to commence the project, a proportion of the approved funding may be paid in advance, upon the execution of a Deed of Grant between the grantee and the ACT Government. The amount of this advance payment amount will be determined by Client Managers on a case-by-case basis during the negotiation of the Deed of Grant. The advance payment cannot exceed 50 per cent of the total grant funding awarded.
Once advance payments have been expended, subsequent funding support will reimburse costs already incurred and is payable upon successful milestone completion. Innovation Connect Client Managers will work with the grantee to determine suitable milestones during the Deed of Grant negotiation process. The proposed date for each milestone must be achievable and the activity measurable. With costs to be reimbursed at the successful completion of milestones it is advised that applicants be mindful of cash flow when determining milestones.
Grantees are required to provide evidence of all expenditure (Innovation Connect and matching-contribution) such as receipts, paid tax invoices and bank statements. The evidence of expenditure must show that payment has been made. This should be supported by photographs, screenshots, diagrams and/or demonstrations where relevant to demonstrate milestone completion.
If you have negotiated at the Deed of Grant stage to claim internal wages as part of the grant funding you are required to submit detailed timesheets. The timesheet must capture the hourly rate and hours worked against the funded activities identified in the Deed of Grant. You cannot claim internal wages as part of the grant funding for activities not listed in the Deed of Grant.
Each milestone claim will require an online written report of activities undertaken and outcomes achieved and must include suitable evidence of completion.
Innovation Connect Client Managers may inspect projects on-site throughout the project duration, including as part of the milestone verification process.
Matched-funding refers to the grantee’s contribution to costs associated with the project that have not been funded by the Innovation Connect grant. Matched-funding expenditure is not bound by the same requirements as the Innovation Connect grant funding (refer ‘Activities Supported’) but matched-funding must occur during the term of the project. In addition, this matched-funding component of the project can include in-kind expenditure, where the grantee is not paying a third party for goods or services. This may be the salaries paid to business owners or employees for work on the project. This needs to be verified by recording the activity conducted, hours claimed and the cost per hour. In-kind salaries should be calculated on market rates for similar work and listed in the application i.e. you cannot claim a Chief Executive Officer’s hourly rate for a mail out. You may be asked to justify the hourly rate you are claiming.
Listing high in-kind salaries for employees when the organisation has minimal revenue may be detrimental to the application’s chances of success.
Eligible in-kind support must be directly relevant to the activities and expenses of the proposed project.