Poorly Executed Government Funding Disease: Know the Symptoms

Catalyst Solutions Singapore, Managing Director, Dave Corbin wrote the following article as featured on Biotechin.asia

Singaporean biotechs undertake a rigorous and systematic process when developing new therapeutic technologies. They identify an issue, hypothesise a range of possible solutions, progressively develop and test each of these solutions, and finally conclude on their efficacy in solving that issue. Unfortunately, many of these same biotechs fail to apply the same rigour when attempting to access government funding, whether that be through grants or tax incentives. The process of identifying government funding is often unstructured and haphazard, and often means that time is wasted and that their financial return is less than what is should be.

Catalyst Solutions works with a range of biotechs (from start ups to multinationals) to access government funding, and the overwhelming majority suffer from one or more of the following symptoms.

Symptom 1 – applying for the first grant that comes to mind

Whether it’s because they’ve heard of someone else applying for a particular grant, or whether it’s because it’s the first grant that popped up when “Singapore grants” was typed into Google, very few businesses identify all of the grants that they could be entitled to, and then select which of these is most appropriate.

Symptom 2 – only applying for one government support program

Whilst the business generally thinks that they received a grant for ‘the project’ (i.e. Product X), the government often applies different funding for different stages of the project (development, trials, commercialisation, etc). Therefore, the business might have received government support for the development of Product X, but they missed out on additional funding that was potentially available for the trialling of Product X and for the commercialisation of Product X. Additionally, there are times when multiple government assistance programs can be accessed for the exact same stage of the project, and this is often overlooked.

Symptom 3 – the self-fulfilling prophecy application

The chances of successfully receiving government funding are directly proportional to the effort that goes into the application. Businesses that second guess themselves and think that they might not get the funding will therefore not invest the necessary time and energy into the preparation of the application, which therefore significantly reduces their chances of success. When they get rejected, which of course is extremely likely given their lacklustre application, they think to themselves ‘well, at least I didn’t spend too much time on it’.

Symptom 4 – not getting a third party to review the application prior to submission

A good grant application is a delicate balance between providing the assessor with enough information for them to feel as though they are making an informed decision and not drowning them in too much detail or with information that doesn’t relate to the qualifying criteria. Additionally, grant applications often use terminology that only makes sense to the business itself, but not to anyone outside of the business.

There are some very generous financial support programs on offer by the government to assist Singaporean biotechs to make their great ideas a reality. However, the diagnosis of Catalyst Solutions is that most businesses don’t maximise what is available.

This article is written by Dave Corbin, Managing Director, Catalyst Solutions Singapore.

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