Mobile Apps & Government Grants

Getting a government grant to develop a mobile app is not easy, but is it worth it?  Well, let’s find out… Here, we will take a look at some of the grants that have been awarded and what government agencies have awarded them.

Before jumping into this, I’d like to point out a few things. Grants are awarded by more than governments. Non-Government Organizations (NGO’s), Non-Profit Organizations (NPO’s), individual companies, and more are also known for issuing grants. While it may be very difficult to compete with some of the corporations going after top level government grants, most of these corporations also sub-contract and solicit development proposals of their own. With major projects, the downline can reach out to 2 sometimes 3 levels of subcontracting and bidding proposals.  Tracking them is a simple matter of following the money.

While these are not the kind of mobile apps likely to appear in mobile stores any time soon, they are the kinds of projects that can finance the growth of your collective development efforts.

The European Union announced in a February 13, 2013 press release, €50 million in research grants for 2013 to develop ‘5G’ technology. Fifty million Euros might raise an eyebrow or two, but it gets better. There is the 2020 Digital Agenda for Europe that deserves examination, too – aiming, for example, to see 50% of the EU population to buy online by 2015 and to double public investment in ICT R&D to € 11 bn by 2020.  Here’s even more.

In conjunction these efforts, the European Union plans to pump €100m in grants into 1,000 digital start-ups around Europe.

Let’s emphasize that last bit… €100m in grants into 1,000 digital start-ups around Europe. We’re not talking about grants to major corporations or even existing SME’s… start-ups.

Coinciding with this, I’m aware of at least two business incubation programs, one in Odessa and a second in Kiev which are actively seeking start-ups and going so far as to provide some initial seed capital. None of this is bluff.

This kind of thing is not isolated simply to Europe. Europe, however is large, the EU is more centralized and in many regards “somewhat” more organized than what you will find in other regions.

Let’s take a quick look at the mobile app grant scene in India

April 26, 2013, Bangalore:  Nokia India, in collaboration with AppCampus (Finland) and members of Harvard Business School Alumni Angels (India Chapter), today announced their initiative, ‘Appcelerate-India’ to boost mobile app development on Nokia Lumia &Windows platform… will invest in excess of $500,000 in ‘Appcelerate-India’ and provide a combination of grants, seed funding, mentoring, incubation resources to discover disruptive applications and nurture talented Indian mobile start-ups.”

Okay, that may sound like small beans compared to what the EU is doing, but we’re not talking about a Government grant in this case. India announced plans in June that it was planning to issue grants, too – but had not determined the total amount of grants that would be funded. These funds, however, would be carved out of the Rs 700 crore (US$111 Million) allocated to its national e-governance plan.

For International Development – sponsored by the United States, there is USAID which recently announced $100 million in grants to India for the development of clean energy, however it also welcomes unsolicited proposals —  USAID is an umbrella organization for many other opportunities  — including the Global Development Alliance (GDA) through 2006 alone, “had put together more than 600 public-private partnerships, committing $1.5 billion and leveraging $4.8 billion of partner resources.”

In Russia, while not specifically for mobile apps, the Federal government is investing  — 135.6 billion rubles (about $4.1 Billion) in Skolkovo to feed the startup culture similar to the rise of Silicon Valley. Its developers are expecting to raise an addition $11 Billion in private funding. The point there is that this venture is expected to reach maturity over the course of 17 years, so getting connected within that network now is a reasonable basis for getting in on future opportunities.

There’s pretty something for almost everyone if you look hard enough — even for Darth Vader – like… DARPA which runs contests, grants and can provide funds for proposals it finds interesting… like — using Smartphone Technology for Smart Unattended Ground Sensors.

Some final notes…  As mentioned, these avenues for funding mobile development are not your typical fare for the regular online mobile app market.   There are a lot of variables though, some programs require any patents or copyrights to go to the funding agency, some don’t.  The core issue as I see it though is that there are a lot of developers who are finding it difficult to capitalize upon their mobile app development capabilities.   On a business level, it makes sense to get paid for some projects while that “paycheck” keeps food on your plate letting you develop other apps on the side.

Even more to the point, there are opportunities everywhere but to apply to them requires thinking outside of the box, non-linear as it relates to “who exactly your customer will be”.  Secondly, it requires research and going through the process – the paperwork, and perhaps developing additional business skills (submitting project proposals being one) beyond just developing mobile apps.

One more final point, as with the earlier post about the Service Corps of Retired Executives, take the time to explore what your government and local business development services have to offer and take advantage of them.  There’s truly a world of opportunities out there, practically at your fingertips — and help is available in virtually every form that you might need.

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