Free Money for Mobile App Development? Grants!

It may be a bit of an exaggeration, but in principle – yes, there is “free money” out there for those enterprising enough to find it and go after it. Enter the world of grants where governments, large corporations and sometimes universities, non-government organizations and private foundations provide money to do… something. Grants do not require repayment. For our purposes, we can also include “requests for tender” which are invitations for proposals.

The following are just a (very) few examples reflecting the variety of organizations issuing grants, what they are for, and grant sizes.


Are Grants Like a Lottery Ticket?

Before going further, I want to qualify that this is not “easy money” and it is not particularly “fast” either. Considerable research and paperwork is involved coupled with a sometimes lengthy evaluation process. It can take from 6 months to 2 years or longer to receive any funds – all variable per project and issuing organization.

On the other hand, grant money is money that is already budgeted. It is there and someone will get it. The number of people or organizations applying for grant money tends to be a small, but very competitive field. Quite simply, most grants are not widely advertised, few know about them, fewer still apply for them.

Grants are like a lottery ticket, except for two things. You can’t buy the ticket – instead you do the research, the paperwork and complete the application process which is specific to each grant. While you are not guaranteed to win a grant, the more familiar you become with the grant process the greater your chances of winning future grants. That comes through research, talking with other grant writers, being better prepared with the information needed for the next grant application, as well as developing relationships with grant-issuing organizations.

Grants are worth pursuing if you are:

  • a small-medium-sized business open to additional projects and revenue-generating opportunities
  • an organization actively engaging the “greater good” (i.e. civil society).
  • a developer focusing mainly on utility-based apps
  • an entrepreneur with good project management and team building skills
  • good with research and documentation and willing to network your skills with organizations interested in applying for grants

Grant Writing is a Job and Business Opportunity

The last of these deserves extra comment. Many businesses are involved directly or indirectly with the kinds of research, development, technology and other interests usually associated with grants – but are not involved in pursuing grants. Some of them would be if they knew about them and had someone able to pursue them (do the research to find them, coordinate the grant paperwork, go through the application process, etc.).

That could be a job for “someone” – potentially a small business unto itself. Essentially, those interested in this pursuit would first get tied into all of the different grant opportunities and look for other “aligned” businesses, developers or other business arrangements such as special purpose vehicles (SPV’s).

Where to Find Mobile App Grant Opportunities

First, this will often depend upon where you live (country/geographical region). Second, “following the money” will likely lead you to government agencies, large corporations, banks and universities – specific to your country. Additionally, you will want to keep an eye on international aid programs like USAIDEBRD (European Bank of Reconstruction and Development), the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 Project, various agencies of the United Nations, and all manner of Start-Up Accelerators and Incubators.

A more proactive approach would involve setting up a Google Alert or an “If This Then That” recipe to keep you notified of new grant opportunities as they are announced.

Requests for tender deserve mention in conjunction with grants in that they provide money for you to develop something much more specific.  This puts you in the business of being a subcontractor.  The big difference is that you will not hold the rights to the end product.

While most grants are for utility-based apps, there are occasionally grants awarded for games – especially with an educational bent.

Winning your first grant or bid will be your greatest challenge, but once you do – future applications will be easier not only for your familiarity with the process but for also having something to show. It probably won’t be easy.  Completing your first grant application might involve several days of effort.  After a couple, you can have all the work done in 1-2 days.  Then it is just a matter of waiting to see if you win or not – and not giving up on applying to future grants.

Project Manager at the Opera Mobile Store providing Sales-Marketing support. Content development and research.

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