The impact of COVID-19 on many Australian businesses has been devastating. But there are some brilliant examples of Australian businesses pivoting to meet a new gap in the market. Some of this innovation was driven out of pure survival. Other businesses found they were at the right place, at the right time, to identify new opportunities.
In this series, we showcase three Australian businesses – HowToo, Norris Industries and Wash Wild – that successfully pivoted with our help during COVID-19.
Connecting businesses to find innovative solutions
SME Connect Director Simon Hanson oversees our strategic programs aimed at supporting SMEs and start-ups. We help turn their ideas into reality through research and development (R&D).
"When COVID-19 hit, it changed the way we work, live and even eat," Simon said.
"We saw online technology take-off with working from home becoming the norm. Restaurants closing their doors to dine-in clients but pivoted to offer part-cooked meals.
"Other businesses started manufacturing products locally, such as sanitisers and ICU ventilators, due to sudden demand and global supply chain issues. COVID-19 unexpectedly unearthed new opportunities for many businesses across the country."
From cleaning dishes to cleaning hands
When COVID-19 hit, local dishwasher producers Norris Industries knew they needed to do something differently.
Norris Industries Managing Director Greg Gates said as a provider to the hospitality industry, the 60-year old business was on the brink of collapse.
“When the pandemic hit, we knew we were in trouble after the hospitality industry came to a standstill," Greg said.
“If we didn’t look to reinvent ourselves we knew there was a real risk our business would stop.
"At the time, Australia was running into major supply issues due to pressure on global supply chains. All types of sanitisers were flying off the shelves and going for crazy prices," he said.
Greg saw a fresh opportunity. So, with sanitiser in short supply in Australia, Norris Industries started its own line of sought-after sanitisers.
Fresh offering to a new market
Norris Industries had previously worked with us through SME Connect.
"We had explored new technologies to grow our dishwasher part of the business," Greg said.
"I knew CSIRO’s facilitator, Dave Fleming, would be able to point me in the right direction when I saw an opportunity for us to start producing sanitisers."
Dave connected Greg with Associate Professor Nathan Bartlett at the University of Newcastle. "This turned out to be a lifeline for us," Greg said.
And the rest is history. The university, through its COVID-19 virus testing laboratory, was able to quickly undertake the validation testing on the sanitisers.
"This provided the efficacy data we needed to continue with the commercialisation and sales of our product," Greg said.
Within months, Norris Industries was able to get their product on the shelf.
"Since then we have expanded to a whole new production line of cleaning products, including to markets overseas in developing countries," he said.
How we can help you find opportunities to innovate your business
Let us help you uncover your potential and turn an idea you have for your business into a reality to drive your business growth:
- Start-ups and smaller businesses – CSIRO Kick-Start Program
- For businesses that are the early stages of their R&D discovery – access our free ten-week training program, Innovate to Grow.