SME product design


4th April, 2024

CSIRO invests $20 million to drive SME innovation

Up to 750 small and medium businesses will have access to extra support to help them turn great ideas into thriving new businesses.

Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO, has announced a $20 million investment to provide SMEs with greater access to vital research and development (R&D) opportunities that will help accelerate their growth.

This will allow CSIRO’s SME Connect team to support up to 750 SMEs through a range of programs and initiatives. These programs will provide training, dollar-matched funding and support to start-ups and SMEs seeking to engage in company-led research projects.

Dr Doug Hilton, CSIRO’s Chief Executive, emphasised the significance of this investment and the transformative impact it would have.

“SMEs are crucial drivers of Australia’s future and so often the engine room of new, innovative thinking and solutions to many of the challenges our society faces,” Dr Hilton says.

“CSIRO’s fundamental role as the national science agency is to create benefits for Australia. That includes helping to drive SME’s productivity, sustainability and growth through greater access to R&D opportunities and conducting research to support a more resilient and diverse economy.”

SME funding boost

Kick-Start your growth

One of the programs being supported is SME Connect’s flagship program, CSIRO Kick-Start.

Since its inception in 2017, the Kick-Start program has facilitated over 280 company-led R&D projects. These alumni companies collectively hold a market value exceeding $2 billion.

SMEs are the backbone of Australia’s economy, constituting 99.8 per cent of businesses. These businesses contribute more than half the gross domestic product and employ 68 per cent of the private sector workforce.

Minister for Industry and Science Ed Husic says the funding announcement clearly shows how CSIRO’s SME Connect team continues to support start-ups and SMEs.

This support is across a broad range of industry sectors including technology, manufacturing, agriculture, mining, energy and health and biosecurity.

“With this announcement, up to 750 more small businesses will get their chance to work with CSIRO to commercialise their ideas,” Mr Husic says.

“We’re a pro-industry, pro-manufacturing, pro-jobs government which is really important for making these sorts of investments.

“Our Future Made in Australian plan, whether it’s our $15 billion National Reconstruction Fund or our $392million Industry Growth Program, means there’s support for businesses big and small to make more things here.”

Industry and research collaboration

Simon Hanson, Director CSIRO’s SME Connect, says the investment helps boost Australian innovation by providing practical pathways for SMEs to leverage the expertise and facilities of the national science agency.

“Research has shown strong collaboration between industry and the research sector is crucial,” Mr Hanson says.

“This funding enables us to support initiatives aimed at bridging this gap, fostering meaningful collaborations between businesses and academia, we aim to facilitate innovation and growth within the SME ecosystem.

“We are dedicated to proactively supporting SMEs nationwide by leveraging CSIRO’s extensive research capabilities and expertise, empowering them to commercialise and integrate cutting-edge innovations into their operations.”

World-class research capabilities

Goterra, an award-winning start-up based in Canberra, is a shining example emerging from CSIRO’s SME Connect programs.

Olympia Yarger, Founder of the CSIRO Kick-Start alumni company, has developed an innovative waste management system that utilises insects to process food waste, resulting in a 97 per cent reduction of greenhouse gases.

In addition, Olympia shared insights into Goterra’s collaboration with CSIRO farming experts, leveraging their expertise to overcome critical challenges.

“CSIRO’s Kick-Start program connected us with leading scientists who not only provided world-class research capabilities to some of our most complex problems but were also pivotal in supporting our exploration of business opportunities, alternative technological advancements and industry connections,” explains Olympia.

Want to learn more?

Curious if R&D could tackle your business challenges? Explore CSIRO’s SME Connect programs designed to support R&D initiatives.

The suite of SME Connect programs include:

  • CSIRO Kick-Start. An initiative for innovative start-ups and small businesses, providing funding support and access to CSIRO’s research expertise and capabilities.
  • Innovate to Grow. A free, 10-week online program designed to help SMEs progress their research and development (R&D) ideas.
  • RISE Accelerator. Provides support to startups and SMEs working on innovative technology and are considering overseas expansion between India and Australia.
  • STEM+ Business. The SIEF Ross Metcalf STEM+ Business Fellowship program builds deeper connections between researchers and SMEs. It also accelerates the adoption of new ideas and technology, and helps SMEs grow into larger and more profitable organisations.
  • Lindfield Collaboration Hub. The Hub is an innovation incubator. A dedicated space for start-ups and SMEs to develop unique, high-tech products and devices.
  • Generation STEM Links. Provides high‑quality internships to help tertiary students gain workplace skills and transition into STEM jobs after graduation. It also aims to build a pool of STEM-capable professionals for the future of NSW STEM industries through its partnerships.

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