In the non profit world, the answer to this question is pretty simple (foundations, primarily). However, this is a significantly more complex question for the manufacturing and business community, primarily because the sources vary by state and type of project(s) the manufacturer executes.
Here is a non-exhaustive list of the typical sources of manufacturing funding:
Federal Grants for Manufacturers:
Federal agencies, such as the National Science Foundation (NSF), allow for-profit companies, including manufacturers, to apply for funding for business and research projects. In addition, if manufacturers choose to partner with applying non-profits or economic development organizations (see my recent white paper on manufacturing partnerships), they can also receive funding as a sub-recipient to the applicant through a expanded list of federal sources. Federal budgets dictate the level of funding through federal agencies, but specific topics for funding are often based on political priorities or economic crises such COVID-19 or the 2008-2009 recession.
State Grants for Manufacturers:
This is the primary source of funding for manufacturers and businesses. Most state funding comes from the state’s economic development departments, but some federal funding, such as USDA, passes through the state level department for the federal agency. This is called, appropriately, “pass through” funding. In addition, there are other state agencies, such recycling and trade and export departments, that also offer opportunities for grants to manufacturers, either on an continuous basis, or as funding comes available through the state’s budgeting process. During the recent pandemic, federal CARES Act funds were awarded to states, who were then able to decide how to distribute the money.
Local/County Grants for Manufacturers:
Manufacturers can also benefit from local programs. The most common local grant funding source is municipal sewer/water treatment agencies (recycling or source reduction grants), but, again, a county or city, may receive “pass through” funding from the state, as has been the case with pandemic funding.
Manufacturing Service Providers/Trade Associations:
Manufacturing service providers, such as the national network of Manufacturing Extension Partnership Centers, can receive funding from state or federal sources to then grant to manufacturers. These funds normally target specific industry projects such as innovation-related investments, training, and cybersecurity. In addition, some trade associations offer grants to their members to fund employee scholarships, or industrial training.
Many manufacturers liken the search for grants to making their way through a spider’s web or complicated maze due to the complexity of the funding landscape. This is often where we start, as we at Lakeview Consulting have a system for finding and vetting grants and incentives for our manufacturing clients. As we often say, we like our clients to let us do what we do best while they concentrate on doing what they do best!