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Gap widens between SME business needs and government policy

A recent study reveals the hidden potential in mature SME businesses across the country, and what needs to be done to help these businesses grow further.

The author of the study, Mike Boorn Plener, of Business Connector in Sydney says: “When we started the study we intended to get a pulse on what’s happening right now across this very important section of the economy, but I was surprised by some of the findings.”

"Manufacturing and industrial companies, excluding tech and medico tech, tend to build a larger base before they go offshore," Plener told PACE.

"The current offerings like the Export Market Development Grants (EMDG) is actually better suited to those companies, compared to other high growth SMEs, where export can often be on the cards to scale revenue even when you're a micro business of sub five people". 

Some of the key findings of the study (conducted through September 2013) include:

  • The economic outlook is bright, with 53% of business owners expecting significant growth in the next two years
  • 74% of significant SME businesses have undeveloped or underdeveloped potential waiting to be realised and commercialised
  • The majority of business owners cannot fully identify and quantify IP, thereby essentially ‘leaving money on the table’
  • 61% of businesses sit on mostly undeveloped export potential (compared to less than 10% of all Australian businesses being exporters), revealing a major gap waiting to be closed
  • Only 29% of business owners have the necessary contacts to take advantage of government assistance and funding

Study reveals widening gap between government policy and business needsPlener (pictured alongside) is Executive Producer of Grants Connector, which addresses these issues for SMEs. While the focus is on grants and government assistance, it covers topics from business planning to export development, and includes 10 expert speakers from government and advisory firms.

“Business owners are seeing that traditional options for getting finance are dwindling and often do not know that there are over 600 government funding options available – and furthermore don’t know how to start the process,” said Plener. “Through Grants Connector we’re closing this gap by bringing the experts to the SME community.”

So how important are grants in helping SMEs grow and take on the world? Andrew Dowling, founder of Tapestry, has this to say: “Commercialisation Australia funding has allowed us to develop the platform for Tapestry and take the first steps into the US market. The assistance and guidance from Commercialisation Australia’s case manager has been invaluable, and the process has been great for our growth”

“While many people see a grant as a grant, the flow-on effect has been profound. CA worked as a strong sign of credibility as we were going to the US market. Especially if you have a corporate target market, getting any kind of competitive funding will be seen as a mark of approval,” concludes Dowling from Tapestry.

Download the brief study summary.

[Image courtesy: Yve Lavine Photography]

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