Welcome to Alberta Business Grants!
12 Lessons from SPARK
Enormous grant opportunities
Politicians are kings in grants
Accurate over brilliant
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Last week I mentioned the upcoming conference: SPARK. The event is put on by the Alberta grant agency HEAVY WEIGHTS: Emissions Reduction Alberta (ERA) and Alberta Innovates (AI).
I learned an enormous amount of information at this conference, and I want to share the highlights here. This information could be used for non-technology and non-environment grants, so read on if you’re interested in securing government grants in the future.
First let me set the stage.
All the grant agencies – including one from Ontario – had tables set up in the foyer with grant agency staff at them.
Here are 12 things you need to know if you want to win a grant.
1. There’s so much money out there.
I just can’t get over how much money there is for grants for Alberta businesses. One grant agency staff said to me, “when you have $190 million to give away, you make friends pretty easy.”
2. There are different catagories of money out there – AND SOME IS UNTAPPED!
One federal grant – known as BCIP – gave a presentation. Essentially with this grant, the federal government will be your customer. How much? $500,000. When he asked the room how many people heard about this program, four of us out of 100 had. Can you believe that? Welcome to grants.
3. Observe to who the grant agencies are listening to
One of the key note speakers had data that essentially aligned with ERA and AI’s mandates. Those speakers show powerful data for supporting your applications. If you’re creating a technology that aligns with these speakers, you want to include that information in your applications.
4. Political masters
ERA and AI made it very clear who called the ultimate shots: politicians. The premier and two senior ministers were speakers at this conference. The agencies talk about the balance between short term political environmental goals and long-term solutions.
HERE’S AN IDEA FOR YOU: IF THE GRANT AGENCIES FEAR THEIR POLITICAL MASTERS, WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU HAVE A POLITICAL MASTER TESTIMONIAL EMBEDDED IN YOUR GRANT APPLICATION?
Seemed to be the year one of the speakers felt that carbon-based car fuels will peak.
One thing that was abundantly clear was how helpful the grant agency staff were. Readers of this blog will know that we believe winning a grant is a three-step process: find the grant, meet the grant agency, and write the grant application. The meeting stage is so critical. If your grant application is in early, some will even look the grant over for you before you officially submit. THAT’S GRANT GOLD.
7. Competitive landscape and market pull
Recently our team helped write a winning $149,000 r&D Associates application. That grant is for a technology company to hire a developer. During the writing phase, the grant agency wanted to dig into two sections: competitive analysis and market pull. And I don’t mean, “tell me about your competitors.” It was like show me the competitive analysis. Thankfully my client had a decent one in place, but I was surprised how deep we went into that section.
The second theme at the conference from grant applications was market pull. You need to show that a customer wants to buy your product. And you need to show that the market is worth pursuing. On this note, you need to realize these agencies have no time for inhouse custom technology. They want to see an Alberta company create an innovative solution that can be used in Alberta and sold worldwide.
8. Secret slush fund
Found another secret slush fund. It’s going to be a gift for one of my favourite clients. Here was the last secret one I found back in 2004: https://www.culturetourism.alberta.ca/community/community-grants/other-initiatives-program/. Grants and government crack me up. They always have money stashed in places that gives them room to play.
9. Accurate versus brilliancy.
If you’re a government staffer, and you’re about to give money to a private business, do you aim for the best technology or the one who filled out the form properly? I had one government grant staffer tell me something that is rather obvious but good to know: their job was to ensure the application meets the funding criteria and not determine how brilliant your technology is going to be. Focus on accuracy not brilliancy.
10. Management should be credible
FOOLS NOT WANTED. Throughout the conference management became a topic that kept coming up. Grant agencies consider who is running the ship of the organization. What does that mean for you? Be credible, be polite, be professional, and highlight your record – especially if you have brought technologies to market before.
11. Answer the questions in advance.
We created a product called 15-Steps to winning your grant meeting. We do something in that product that was brought up at SPARK. ANSWER ALL THE QUESTIONS IN ADVANCE OF YOUR MEETING. Once an application is submitted to your technology advisor (TA), your TA is asked the same questions internally as on the grant agency’s website: who is on the management team? How are they financed? How much does their technology reduce GHG emissions? What is the company’s technology readiness level?
Image how much further your grant application will go if you have all these questions prepared in advance? Few people are showing up at their first grant meeting that prepared, but if you do, you’re going to start winning grants like the best in the business.
12. Next Year
If I took my notes correctly, Alberta Innovates is having another conference June 6-8, 2018. Block those dates if you are an Alberta-based technology business. Hope you see you there!
p.s. We win and manage government grants for Alberta businesses. Do you qualify for government grants? Find out here: http://albertabusinessgrants.ca/needs-assessment. Receive a complimentary 30-minute consultation to review your findings.