Innovation Grants Program Guidelines

Grant update

Brisbane City Council has prioritised funds to create the new Lord Mayor’s COVID-19 Direct Assistance Program in 2020-21. This Program will support our community organisations as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Refer to the Lord Mayor’s COVID-19 Direct Assistance Program to check your eligibility and to find out more.

The Innovation Grants Program will return in 2021-22.

The Innovation Grants Program is a Brisbane City Council (Council) initiative to support the growth of creative enterprise in Brisbane.

Applications for this grant are now closed. This program will return in 2021-22.

Learn about the Innovation Grants Program:


To grow our reputation as a globally competitive city, Council is committed to ensuring the creative workforce can prosper and thrive in Brisbane. The Innovation Grants Program will provide strategic investment for a creative enterprise, entrepreneur, project or program to grow the creative economy and workforce, and amplify Brisbane's position as a leader in the creative industries.


The grants program aims to:

  • provide strategic investment for a creative enterprise or entrepreneur to take their Brisbane-based business, program or project to the next level.
  • provide innovative cultural, social and economic outcomes for Brisbane.

The program

Applicants can apply for $30,000 per application. The Innovation Grants Program comprises one grant of $30,000 and all applications must demonstrate exceptional levels of cultural, social and economic outcomes for Brisbane.

The Innovation Grants Program funding will be allocated through a competitive process to one applicant for advancing the development of a creative enterprise through one; or a combination of the following:

  • an innovative product
  • an innovative project
  • an innovative collaboration
  • an innovative business idea.

The application must evidence the following:

  • a two-year project plan with budget and income forecasts (maximum two pages)
  • letters of support and/or partnership agreements to verify agreed partnerships, investor interest and/or mentoring arrangements.

The application may also include evidence of any other capital contribution (cash or in-kind), for example:

  • a low interest loan
  • crowd sourcing funds
  • philanthropy (cash/in-kind).

The Innovation Grants Program is divided into the following five assessment phases:

Phase one: applicant shortlisting

  • Council officers will assess eligibility against the grant guidelines.
  • All eligible applications will be assessed by an External Assessment Committee against the assessment criteria.
  • The External Assessment Committee will provide a shortlist of meritorious applications to Council.
  • Council will notify the shortlisted applicants that they have progressed to assessment phase two.

Phase two: question and answer session

  • Shortlisted applicants must attend a question and answer session with the External Assessment Committee. This session will provide applicants with an opportunity to receive feedback and expand on their application.

Phase three: professional pitch workshop

  • Shortlisted applicants must attend the pitch workshop with a professional coach to develop their pitch skills for final presentation.

Phase four: pitch to the panel

  • Shortlisted applicants will pitch their project or creative enterprise to the External Assessment Committee.

Phase five: final decision

  • Taking into consideration the initial application and question and answer sessions, the panel will assess the pitches using the assessment criteria and make a recommendation on the most meritorious applicant.
  • Final endorsement on the recommended grant recipient will be by Council’s Establishment and Coordination Committee.

Key dates

The following dates are to be considered prior to submitting your application. If you are shortlisted to progress to the second assessment phase you must attend the following grant sessions:

  • Question and Answer Session: 10 March 2020
  • Professional Pitch Workshop: 17 March 2020
  • Pitch to the Panel: 24 March 2020.

Please note if you not able to attend any of the allotted sessions above you will not be eligible for an Innovation Grant. Please consider the dates above before you submit your application.

Eligibility and grant requirements

Eligible applications

The following conditions apply for applications to be eligible for funding through the Innovation Grants Program:

  • Applications must be submitted via the online SmartyGrants system.
  • Applicants must be 17 years of age or over at the time of applying. Applicants under 18 years of age must have their application co-signed by their legal guardian, confirming they will take responsibility for managing any funding that may be offered to the applicant.

The following categories of individuals and organisations may apply:

  • Individuals must:
  • be residents of the Brisbane local government area (LGA)
  • be permanent residents or Australian citizens
  • have an Australian Business Number (ABN) or nominate an accountable auspice body that has an ABN.
  • Incorporated organisations based in the Brisbane LGA.
  • Unincorporated organisations, auspiced by an incorporated body that is based in the Brisbane LGA.
  • Auspicing organisations are limited to supporting a maximum of two applications per round.
  • Small businesses with a turnover of less than $2 million per year, based in the Brisbane LGA.


  • The grant activity and/or outcome must operate within the Brisbane LGA or be able to demonstrate that the project will directly benefit residents of Brisbane.
  • Applicants must have satisfied the reporting requirements of any Council funding received in the past.

The Innovation Grants Program may support development and operating costs specific to the project including but not limited to:

  • up to 25% of the total costs of travel, accommodation and related expenses associated with the project
  • up to 25% of the total costs of documentation, evaluation and interpretation of the project

up to 10% of the total costs of publishing related expenses associated with the project.

Ineligible applications

An application will be deemed ineligible if identified as:

  • incomplete or submitted after the closing date and time
  • for a business with a turnover of more than $2 million per year (i.e. not a small business)
  • for political organisations or activities that have a political purpose
  • an applicant who has previously been successful in obtaining Council grants but has outstanding acquittals
  • applications from educational institutions or activities being funded through an educational institution.
  • for activities and/or projects currently financially supported by Council.

The Innovation Grants Program may not support:

  • proposals that do not meet the requirements of the Innovation Grants Program objectives
  • projects that do not apply reasonable consideration to the recommended industry rates for artists, arts workers and creative producers
  • primarily fundraising ventures, including charitable events
  • sponsorship, prizes, award ceremonies or competitions
  • general operating expenses such as electricity, lease/rent payments, telephone, uniforms etc. that are part of ongoing expenses
  • capital works, facility maintenance and improvements
  • debt repayment
  • retrospective funding i.e. projects must not have commenced prior to grant notification date
  • general public liability or insurance costs for the individual applicant, organisation or proposed activity
  • murals and school arts activities, including eisteddfods
  • projects that are considered to be the core responsibility of other levels of government
  • (e.g. Queensland Government departments, such as the Department of Education and Training or Queensland Health)
  • staff wages for permanent staff or for project staff positions that are planned to continue after the project
  • entertainment for events unless there is a developmental aspect
  • food and alcohol costs associated with projects or events.

Assessment process

Eligible applications will be assessed against the following criteria:

Assessment criteria for the Creative Sparks Program by criteria number, criteria and percentage weighting.

Criteria Number

Criteria Percentage weighting 

Merit for innovation:

  • Clearly articulated vision and objectives of the creative enterprise, program or project.
  • Demonstrates excellence in creative thinking, including evidence of research and development, innovation and quality.
  • Previous experience of organisation or key creatives.

Potential reach:

  • Strong understanding of the current market for the project.
  • Demonstrate the potential scalability of the enterprise, project or program.
  • Demonstrates that community access and inclusion has been considered in the project outcome

Benefit and value:

  • Demonstrates long-term viability that will grow Brisbane’s creative economy and workforce.
  • Shows clear evidence that the enterprise, project or program will contribute to Brisbane’s global reputation as a creative city.


  • Evidence of good planning, a realistic budget with appropriate resourcing, including payment of creative personnel where applicable.
  • Strong understanding of the processes required to develop a creative project.
  • Provision of relevant support material.

Applications are assessed as follows:

  • Council officers from relevant program areas assess eligibility against the grant guidelines.
  • Council will not redress errors in applications. If an application is deemed ineligible, it will not be assessed.
  • An External Assessment Committee appraises the eligible applications against the assessment criteria to provide a shortlist of meritorious applications to Council.
  • Council will notify Shortlisted Applicants they have progressed to assessment phase two. Shortlisted Applicants must attend a Question and Answer Session (Q&A Session) with the External Assessment Committee. The Q&A Session is an opportunity to receive feedback and expand on your application.
  • Shortlisted Applicants will then be offered an opportunity to work with a coach to develop a professional pitch.
  • The Shortlisted Applicants must then pitch their project to the External Assessment Committee.
  • The External Assessment Committee appraises all pitches to provide the most meritorious application to Council's Establishment and Coordination Committee for consideration.
  • Council’s Establishment and Coordination Committee makes the final decision regarding grant allocation.

The Innovation Grants Program is a competitive grants program. Only one application that meets the assessment criteria will receive a grant. 

Application process

Applications are currently closed. When open, applications are submitted online via SmartyGrants. 

Applications will only be accepted if submitted via the SmartyGrants online application form and associated templates. The online application system allows you to save, develop and print out your application before you submit it. Support material can also be attached to your online application.

Once an applicant has submitted an application through SmartyGrants:

  • the applicant will receive an email confirming receipt of the application
  • submitted applications will be kept confidential and the contents will not be disclosed to any person outside the application and assessment process
  • the successful applicant will be published on Council’s website.

A budget is required to support your application. Before you apply, it is highly recommended you review a budget table example to assist you with developing your budget.


Further information is available by contacting Council, where you will be put in contact with a relevant Council officer.

People with a hearing impairment or speech impairment can contact Council through the National Relay Service:

  • TTY users phone 13 36 77 then ask for 07 3403 8888
  • Speak and Listen users phone 1300 555 727 then ask for 07 3403 8888
  • Internet relay users connect to the NRS ( and then ask for 07 3403 8888.

This information is available in other languages by contacting the Translating and Interpreter Services (TIS) on 13 14 50 and asking to be connected to Council on 07 3403 8888. All enquiry services are free.

Refer to the SmartyGrants help guide for technical assistance when submitting an application. The SmartyGrants support desk is open 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday on 03 9320 6888 or by email

Terms and conditions

The successful applicant must abide by Council's terms and conditions as part of the Funding Agreement.

Only Council has authority to approve grants. Approval of a grant does not imply that Council has given any other consent. Applicants should note that events or cultural activities may require other approvals and consents.


This Glossary contains a number of terms and phrases applicants may need to be familiar with when planning an application:

The Acquittal Report is due within 24 months from the notification date and explains the outcomes of the project and how the funds were spent. It demonstrates that the funding has been used for the purpose for which it was provided, including a certified report of financial transactions and whether the project achieved its intended objectives.

An Artist or Creative Practitioner is a creative person who has specialist training in their field (not necessarily in academic institutions), committed to devoting significant time to their creative activity or practice and who creates art or cultural value as identified with their profession.

An arts worker is a person who manages or facilitates the development of arts and cultural activity.

Artist Run Initiatives (ARIs) are unincorporated collectives of professional creative practitioners and incorporated, not-for-profit arts organisations that identify as an ARI. ARIs are characterised by the following qualities: they are managed and operated by creative practitioners, they operate on a not-for-profit basis, they have a continuing program of creative activities.

The Assessment Committee is a group of peers and industry experts who assess applications for funding with advice from art form peers and other industry experts as required. Assessment Panel members are selected for their experience and knowledge.

An auspice body is an incorporated entity or an individual with an ABN that manages a grant on behalf of an individual or an unincorporated group or entity. An auspice body is responsible for providing a financial report on the completion of a project. It is not responsible for the artistic direction or quality of the project.

A community is any group of people who identify through a common element which may be: geographically specific, shared cultural heritage, age group or a community of interest e.g. the community of acapella singers, or a community defined by age, gender, ability, diversity or language group.

Community benefit describes tangible and intangible benefits and opportunities to members of the public accessing or participating in funded project activity and can include cultural, social, economic and environmental outcomes.

A commercial approach refers to having a focus on buying and selling arts and cultural goods or activities with a view to making a profit.

Core business refers to the activities of an entity that incur fixed costs or discretionary costs which cannot be attributed to a specific project. Fixed costs are costs that would be incurred by the entity, even if the entity’s projects did not eventuate.

Creative producer is the term applied to someone who enables the making of a creative product including management of finances, marketing, associated legal and royalty issues. A creative producer may or may not have a technical role in the development of creative product e.g. a music producer may not necessarily produce the music.

Development opportunities are cultural activities that have a development intention, for emerging or established artists of any age and skill level.

Eligible means that the applicant or project satisfies the conditions for funding.

Emerging talent is defined as being within the first five years of professional practice.

An Enterprise is a small business or company with a focus on commercial activity, such as selling goods or services and/or a social purpose e.g. service provision to communities.

Entrepreneurship is the organisation and management of an enterprise/s with considerable initiative, innovation and risk.

Equipment (non-consumables) refers to items purchased to be used during the project but can continue to be used after the completion of the project.

GST stands for Goods and Services Tax. If an applicant or auspicing organisation is GST registered, 10% GST will be added to the grant as an itemised GST gross-up. If an applicant or auspicing organisation is not GST registered, the 10% GST will be added to the grant, but not itemised as GST. For advice on GST, please contact a tax advisor or the Australian Taxation Office on 13 24 78 or

In-kind contribution or in-kind support is the dollar value of non-cash contributions to a project e.g. office space, staff time or voluntary labour that would otherwise have needed to be paid for. It includes volunteer labour, administrative support, rent-free accommodation or donations of materials or equipment. These contributions should be given a dollar value and must be included in the proposed budget.

Innovation is the creating of something new or different.

Investment is the provision of value toward something for its growth, development, sustainability and/or maintenance.

Materials (consumables) refers to items purchased to be used during the project and are used up by the completion of the project.

Not-for-profit organisation is an organisation whose constitution states that any profits or surpluses must be used to further the objectives of the organisation, rather than benefit an individual or group of individuals.

Non-government organisation is an organisation that is not subject to the control of the Commonwealth, a State or Territory and/or a local government.

A partnership is an agreement between a creative practitioner, arts worker, creative producer or cultural organisation and public non-government or private sector organisations or another entity. The agreement must provide creative professionals with access to resources and opportunities that would otherwise be unavailable to them.

Performance indicators are measurable outcomes intended to evaluate a project or funded activity.

Last updated: 22 July 2020