Australian government stumps up AU$182m for help with its Entrepreneurs' Programme

The Department of Industry, Innovation, and Science is after approximately 10 delivery partners that can provide expert advice to help participating businesses grow, innovate, and commercialise.

The Department of Industry, Innovation, and Science has allocated AU$182 million to build a network of delivery partners that can provide consistent expert business advisory and facilitation services to eligible businesses Australia wide under the Entrepreneurs' Programme.

According to request for tender (RFT) documents, the department is looking to contract approximately 10 delivery partners that are each able to employ a minimum of five staff to ensure there is adequate take up and demand of the Entrepreneurs' Programme, as well to help participating businesses grow, innovate, and commercialise. The contracts will be initially for three years from 1 July 2020 until 30 June 2023, with the option to extend it twice for one-year.

Specifically, there needs to be a single delivery partner that can provide commercialisation services to customers nationally; a single delivery partner to provide innovation and incubator support services nationally; and one or more delivery partners to provide expert business advisory and facilitation services in nominated geographic areas on a state or regional basis.

"The programme needs strong, collaborative, and constructive partnerships with delivery partners who will use their knowledge, resources, and networks to support a national approach to delivering expert business advisory and facilitation assistance within the small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) ecosystem," the document stated.

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"Delivery partners will promote and build SME capabilities and encourage high value innovation to improve business growth, innovation, and commercialisation outcomes. The programme is seeking delivery partners who are innovative in their thinking, customer, and partnership focused, collaborative, and committed to implementing and supporting the programme service offering."

The Entrepreneurs' Programme was initially announced under the federal government's AU$1.1 billion National Innovation and Science Agenda in December 2015. It was originally announced as an AU$8 million initiative but was allocated an additional AU$15 million over four years as part of former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's election campaign in 2016.

It was designed to help SMEs accelerate commercialisation; provide access to a network of experienced business advisers and facilitators to improve business practices and enhance overall competitiveness; assist new and existing incubators; and help businesses identify knowledge gaps that hinder on their business growth.

The programmed re-gained attention during Budget 2017 when the Australian government announced it would "refocus" its incubator support tranche of the Entrepreneurs' Programme.

The program had been hailed as contributing to the government's economic growth priority by supporting incubators, accelerators, and businesses to foster the development of startups.

Under the tender requirements, deliver partners will need to carry out promotional services targeting eligible businesses through activities including sponsorship, attendance, or presenting at industry shows or conferences; distribution of marketing material; promotion of services through social media, print media, and radio media; and engaging with media through editorial content and case studies.

See also: How to manage a startup: 6 tips (TechRepublic)  

Delivery partners are also expected to deliver quarterly business intelligence reports to the department that outlines information that relates to eligible businesses and business more broadly, such as knowledge of relevant business and industry trends; regional and geographical issues that are likely to impact on proposed policy programs; and provide knowledge of relevant programs that are available for eligible businesses such as Industry Growth Centres.

Delivery partners must also be able to demonstrate a "strong commitment to culture, collaboration, values, and good programme outcomes for businesses", the RFT added, encouraging those with expert business advisory and facilitation services experience, as well as industry knowledge, interaction, and linkages to apply.

In addition, the document said nominating tenderers must specify the geographical areas they will be able to service.

"While fly-in-fly-out, or drive-in-drive-out arrangements from a capital city base are acceptable options for the delivery of programme services in regional and remote Australia, successful delivery partners would need to demonstrate how such an arrangement would deliver a very strong understanding of the challenges and opportunities within the particular region," the RFT document said.

"The department expects specified personnel to establish state-based networks with collaboration and strong relationships maintained across sectors and delivery partners. This will provide eligible businesses with access to a wide variety of skills and capabilities to support their growth and expansion aspirations. Delivery partners will play a key role in establishing these networks on behalf of the programme."

The deadline to apply for the tender is 28 October 2019.

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