The NSW government has reinstated the minimum viable products (MVP) grant program, six months after it was halted in May, but at just a 25% of the value of the previous government’s program.
The government has allocated $12 million to the rebadged “MVP Ventures Program” over the next four years – $3m a year – to 2027. Applications open in December, closing at the end of April in 2024.
While the former Coalition government increased the matched funding from $25,000 to $200,000 a startup late last year, the Labor version offers grants worth between $25,000 and $50,000.
Investment NSW describes the MVP Ventures Program as supporting startups “in the product lifecycle between early-stage research and mature investment opportunities, through grants to drive the commercialisation of highly innovative and new products or processes”. Applications will be considered on a non-competitive basis and assessed in the order they’re received.
The program was put on hold “as part of the sector-wide Comprehensive Expenditure Review being coordinated by NSW Treasury” in May. A leading fintech founder called it a kick in the guts for the startup sector at the time. The findings of the review have not been released.
Its return came just days before NSW innovation, science and technology minister Anoulack Chanthivong is due to appear before the NSW Budget Estimates Committee on November 8.
After support for the startup sector was completely absent from September’s NSW budget, minister Chanthivong announced plans for an “Innovation Blueprint” a few weeks later, promising to “lead roundtables, including on venture capital, non-monetary government support, how to best encourage startup growth, industry adoption of innovation and attraction of skills and talent” as part of the blueprint process. Consultation on the document is planned for February next year, 11 months after Labor came to power.
While the fate of the $10 million Carla Zampatti VC fund to back women founders remains uncertain nearly a year and a half after the former government announced it, UNSW director of entrepreneurship David Burt said the return of the MVP funding should be celebrated.
“Re-starting the NSW Government MVP grant is a fantastic step in the right direction and good evidence of green shoots that the current NSW Government is listening to feedback from the ecosystem,” he said.
“While yes the dollar amounts have reverted from $200,000 down to $50,000, this is still a good step forward and if the current government is willing to support a great program from the previous administration it’s a positive sign of much-needed bipartisan support for good and consistent economic development policy.
“The consistency point is super important – inconsistent policy creates uncertainty, and uncertainty is poison for startups – so keeping the MVP grant as a consistent mechanism to access small amounts of support for early-stage technology prototyping and product development is awesome for the founders in NSW.”
Burt paid tribute to Lance Chia director of investment & innovation at the Liverpool Innovation Precinct for his advocacy in getting the MVP program reinstated.