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Technology and innovation key to winning grants

Third Sector spoke to grant-winner, ImmCalc COO Chris Smeed, and grant-giver, Optus Future Makers Program, to see just how not-for-profits can stand out during the grant process

Tapping into innovation and digital technologies is key for winning grants and building on partnerships within the highly competitive grant process.

This was how small, Brisbane not-for-profit, ImmCalc, stood out from the for-profits and social enterprises in the Optus Future Makers Program and went on to win $25,000 in funding for a life-saving, General-Practice (GP) focused tool.

ImmCalc Chief Operating Officer, Chris Smeed, told Third Sector: “We saw there was a need for something that could improve the care for everyone, so while it is not our core business, we saw innovation and saw something we could do and went with it. To me, that’s a fantastic thing we can do in not-for-profit spaces.”

ImmCalc, a project of charitable General Practice Inala Primary Care, is an application that calculates immunisation schedules. It compares the immunisation that someone already has to what they should have and cuts waiting times down from 15 minutes.

This innovation was the key to standing out in the Future Makers program. Director of Group Sustainability at Optus, Helen Maisano, said the program looks at how groups use technology to deliver a solution to a social issue affecting vulnerable people.

“We find the best applications are the ones that make the social need very clear, what the need is and how their solution is going to change the lives of vulnerable people. Their solution and the issue is really important,” Maisano said. “Elements around the use of technology is also important, as is how creative and innovative they are.”

The program assesses an organisation on its capacity building and how it empowers innovation through technology to address social issues. It looks at how entrepreneurs across a range of sectors focuses on delivering solutions that deliver in employability, education, health and empowerment of women and girls.

Maisano adds that the program is about ensuring not-for-profits can operate in the sector on their own, without seeking external advice or aid.

“One of the reasons we developed Future Makers was to help the not-for-profit sector become more innovative and adopt technology to deliver their programs,” she said. “Not all not-for-profits think that way, so we really want to encourage the sector to embrace digital technologies.”

To stand out from the other applicants – especially those in the for-profit space – Smeed said: “For us, it was telling the story and that story is that we have an idea that can help save people’s lives. It isn’t just a chance that it will save people’s lives, we know it can save people’s lives and it has a demand that is already there.”

Smeed advises other not-for-profits looking to break through the application process to look for partnerships and build on this momentum.

“Keep finding people who are interested in what you are doing and partner with them, and that’s how we have been able to leverage our idea and help it grow. If you partner with people and they believe in what you do, take it to the next step and partner with someone else,” Smeed said.

“It is all about finding people who have an amazing skillset that complements your own and who believes and has a similar value set and a similar passion for what you do, and that is what came through in the Optus grant. Optus believes in innovation, Optus believes that technology can make a better world and that’s how Optus has made a great partner in this journey so far.”

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