Each year, the U.S. Federal government provides about $500 billion in grants. Of these, about 5% ($25 billion) are directly awarded to for-profit businesses. Billions more benefit businesses of all sizes through strategic partnerships with schools, universities, governments and governmental agencies, tribes and community-based (nonprofit) organizations. But what if your company is not in the United States? Do other governments around the world provide similar grants to support the growth and development of private sector companies? The answer is both yes and no.
No other country supports the private sector with government grants at the same level or degree as the United States. And although the United States does award billions of dollars in grants to private sector companies, there is no mystical ‘pot of free government money’ waiting to be had. When awarded to for-profit companies, government grants are given for highly specific purposes and always come with lots of restrictions and compliance requirements attached. Alignment to national priorities is the key qualifier in determining whether or not a private sector company or project might be eligible to receive Federal grant funds. While these priorities may vary from time to time, they generally relate to topics including (but not limited to):
- National security and public safety
- Health care innovation, cost savings and research
- Education, particularly college- and career-readiness, providing equitable education services for students with special needs or disabilities and topics relating to Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics (STEM)
- Energy savings and renewable energy
- Exceptional advances in technological innovation
- Major advances in scientific research
- Workforce training and education in high-growth fields and industries
- Agriculture- and food-related research and projects
In addition, thousands of businesses across the United States gain access to government and foundation grant funds each year by establishing partnerships with eligible applicants including public and private schools, charter schools and universities. This strategy is successfully employed by businesses of nearly every type and size—from the smallest one-person operations up to some of the largest and most recognized businesses in the world. The strategy also works for nearly every type of business service or product, but is especially useful for service providers (e.g., specialized training), manufacturers (e.g., equipment, products, etc.) and technology-focused firms.
Through these arrangements, the eligible school or university must be the lead applicant and fiscal agent for the grant. All funds pass through the eligible entity, which then contracts with the business partner(s) to carry out the proposed project activities (provided of course that the proposed activities are aligned to the funding priorities of the grant program).
Outside of the United States, private sector companies can directly access government grants on a very limited scale. As in the U.S., these government grants are only awarded to for-profit companies when the project or request is aligned to strategic national priorities. However, the process of indirectly accessing government grants through strategic partnerships is much the same outside of the United States. Keep in mind though, that in other countries, there are far fewer of these opportunities than what you find in the U.S.
Here are some examples of the various different types of government grants available to businesses located outside of the United States.
|Country or region||Area of focus||Description and website|
|Australia||Medical technologies||If you’re running a manufacturing business or research company in South Australia involved in the early stage development of new commercially viable medical or assistive devices, this program can help you with research and development costs.|
|Canada||Clean technology||Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC) funds Canadian cleantech projects and coaches the companies that lead them as they move their ground-breaking technologies to market. SDTC provides support through two funds. The SD Tech Fund supports cleantech projects that address climate change, air quality, clean water, and clean soil. The SD Natural Gas Fund supports the development and demonstration of new downstream natural gas technology. Canadian corporations or nonprofit organizations that have the rights to the technology intellectual property and are developing that technology further towards commercialization are eligible to apply.|
|European Union||Sustainability of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs)||The main objective of this call for expressions of interest is to improve the environment for transferring businesses to employees or workers organized in cooperative form and to raise awareness about the benefits of a cooperative model in Europe.|
|United Kingdom||Innovation||The Innovation Voucher Scheme funds research cost awards for joint projects between small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and higher education institutions (HEIs) in Scotland to create new products, services and processes that benefit the business, the institution and the economy. All SMEs (including social enterprises) with main business operations in Scotland are eligible to partner with a HEI under the scheme. SMEs are referred to as organisations that are registered businesses, employ between 1 to 250 employees and have an annual turnover of less than £35 million.
The scheme is broad in nature and encompasses all disciplines of academia from science, engineering and technology to arts, creative industries, humanities and social sciences. Business sectors can be from social enterprises to technology-based companies, so long as SMEs match the eligibility criteria. Support provided to eligible businesses will include a contribution from European Structural Funds.
Here are resources you can use to find other types of government grants offered to private sector companies outside of the United States.
|Country or region||Website(s) and description|
|Australia||Australia offers a keyword searchable single portal for locating government grants available to private sector industries.|
|Canada||The Canada Business Network is a searchable site listing government grants available to businesses located in Canada. Individual provinces may also offer some grants to businesses so you should check out those sites as well.|
|European Union||The European Commission has a single website that lists government grants available to private sector companies located in the EU. Individual countries may also offer some grants to businesses so you should check out those country-specific sites as well.|
|United Kingdom||The United Kingdom also offers a searchable site listing government grants available to UK-based businesses.|
|World Bank||The World Bank offers a very limited number of small grants. All of these are offered in developing countries and are primarily limited to projects that focus on civic engagement for the empowerment of marginalized and vulnerable groups. The purpose of the Small Grants program is to support the empowerment of citizens to have greater ownership of development processes, thereby making these processes more inclusive, equitable and contributing to broad country ownership of development policies as envisioned in the Comprehensive Development Framework principles. Crucial ingredients for empowerment of vulnerable groups include: access to information, access to organizational links outside the local domain, capacity to influence the public arena and to negotiate with local and national authorities, the existence of trustful national and local institutions, and the presence of enabling policy and legal frameworks for civic engagement.|
Keep in mind that as in the United States, eligibility requirements to qualify for these grants are very stringent. Only a tiny percentage of proposals submitted by for-profit companies are actually funded. And like in the United States, these grants come with strict reporting and compliance requirements and can be very cumbersome to manage. However, private sector companies in other countries are able to access government grants through strategic partnerships with grant-eligible organizations.