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By  Rachel Lee 17 October 2023 5 min read

Key points

  • We bridge the gap between innovative businesses and cutting-edge science to deliver visionary, futuristic solutions.
  • As sponsors of Track 2050 at the inaugural SXSW Sydney conference, we're asking what science could deliver by 2050.
  • Our pioneering science could reshape health and energy landscapes, promote sustainability and reduce waste.

Our experts work every day to harness science and technology to bring our vision of a safer, healthier and more sustainable future, to reality. We're a partner at all stages of the innovation journey, from idea to company creation to commercialisation. More than 200 companies have been started as a result of our technology.

One way we’re supporting innovation is through our CSIRO Kick-Start program. The program engages with innovative Australian start-ups and small-medium enterprises (SMEs). We offer funding support and access to our research expertise and capabilities to help grow and develop their business. We bridge the gaps between visionary businesses and our cutting-edge science and technology. By doing so, we help create a future that once only existed in the realms of science fiction.

We're celebrating sponsoring ‘Track 2050’ at the inaugural SXSW Sydney conference with our deep tech investment fund, Main Sequence Ventures. Join the party and take a look at what the year 2050 could look like.

Mind-blowing breakthroughs in health science

Imagine being able to run safe clinical trials without relying on animal testing. Traditional drug discovery methods use animals such as rats, mice and primates to evaluate the safety and efficacy of new drugs. But this approach often results in the failure of human clinical trials testing new drugs for neurological disease.

Enter Tessara Therapeutics. We worked with them to develop RealBrain®. The platform incorporates advanced three-dimensional in-vitro models that much more closely represent human neural physiology. RealBrain® models feature human cells in 3D architecture with functional neural networks. As a result of these features, the models more accurately predict the responses of human brain tissue. They're also highly scalable and reproducible.

Tessara revolutionises neurological research by offering a reliable, ethical platform for testing new drugs. They can also accelerate drug development for neurological and neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer's. The technology enhances the success rate in commercialising reliable treatments that positively impact the lives of millions.

As well as pharmaceuticals, blood testing saves lives.

Currently, the standard blood collection tubes don’t work for anticoagulated hospital patients, or those taking common blood thinning medicines. This challenge got Australian medical technology start-up Q-Sera interested. We worked with them to develop a blood collection tube that rapidly produces high quality serum from all samples, including anti-coagulated bloods. The technology uses patented formulations and pro-coagulant proteins from snake venom called 'prothrombin activators'.

Testing different types of catalysts for Beyond H2 to reduce the energy required for CO2 and biogas methanation was undertaken at CSIRO’s SynCat, Australia's first fully automated, around-the-clock, synthetic fuels research facility.

Fuelled by greener, cheaper energies 

Picture our urban landscapes, once powered by non-renewable energy sources. In 2050, they're now vibrant and eco-friendly, powered primarily by renewable alternatives.

Today, efficient and cost-effective storage and transportation is a barrier for the commercial use of hydrogen as a renewable energy solution. This particularly true for the transport sector. We’ve worked with Beyond H2 to develop sustainable and cost-competitive hydrogen solutions. These use renewable energy, such as waste biogas (a mixture of gases from waste sources, including manure and sewage).

The commercial shipping industry plays a huge role in keeping our economy afloat. But it currently accounts for about 2 per cent of global energy-related CO2 emissions. To help address this, we worked with Hobart-based company Tidetech. The goal was to provide accurate oceanographic data to the commercial shipping industry to help them save fuel and reduce emissions.

Our researchers also worked with startup Amber Electric to develop a predictive model to forecast wholesale electricity prices. The model gives customers the opportunity to adapt their energy usage to reduce costs.

Faba-lous innovations deliver functional food

Australian Plant Proteins undertook a CSIRO Kick-Start project to optimise faba bean powder production.

Can you smell what 2050’s cooking? In the gastronomic sphere, Australian Plant Proteins and goodMix have merged nutritional science and food technology with the aim of creating healthy and sustainable products. This includes fortified and functional foods which contain added health ingredients and/or nutrients.

Now, you can get ready to say hello to functional food (and guts). goodMix is health food company based in Queensland. We worked with them to understand how their ‘super-cereal’ product Blend11 was creating the side effect of ‘Best poos ever’ for their customers. We discovered that it was well-fermented by the gut microbiome and can increase in-vitro production of butyrate (a bowel health promoting short-chain fatty acid). This helped them gain the attention of health professionals working with gut issues like IBS.

Through a CSIRO Kick-Start project, Australian Plant Proteins are answering the call for more plant-based protein sources. This includes optimising the protein content extracted from faba beans to more than 80 per cent.

Goodbye single-use plastics, hello renewable materials

Thanks to some of our pioneering CSIRO Kick-Start collaborators, we could be saying goodbye to harmful, single-use plastics and hello to renewable materials from surprising places.

ULUU seaweed-derived polymers can be re-used, recycled or composted.

Currently, the average Australian accumulates 27 kilograms of new clothing each year and throws away a further 23 kilograms. Too often, these garments end up in landfill where the fabric can take hundreds of years to break down. To address this issue, we worked with Worn Up to assist in the development of FABtec. The new material, made from recycled school uniforms, can be used to create furniture, kitchen benches and more.

But school uniforms aren’t the only unlikely source of new materials. Thanks to support from CSIRO Kick-Start, a start-up based in Western Australia is producing an alternative to petroleum-based plastic using seaweed. ULUU is making a class of biomaterials called polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs) that mimic petrochemical plastics very well. The process involves converting into sugars and fermenting it in vats to produce natural polyesters.

Since 2017 CSIRO Kick-Start has supported over 250 small business projects and contributed over $23 million of funding for research and development to not only solve some of the biggest challenges of our times, but also help build a safer, healthier, more sustainable future.

[Image appears of text “CSIRO” in the foreground, and Dr Megan Sebben going downstairs can be seen in the background, and text appears: Kick-Start]

Dr Megan Sebben: My name is Megan and I’m the Programme Manager of CSIRO’s Kick-Start programme.

[Images move through to show a close view, and then medium Megan talking to the camera, and then Megan talking with a client and looking at a whiteboard together, and text appears: Dr Megan Sebben, Program Manager – Kick-Start, CSIRO]

The programme exists to help Australian companies that have a scientific or technical challenge that they need some help with and we can provide them dollar match funding that’s going to help them advance their business.

[Image changes to show Megan talking to the camera]

So far we’ve worked with more than 190 companies across 210 projects.

[Images move through of a rear view of Megan going through a doorway, and then Megan sitting with a male client at a table and having a conversation with him]

We’ve helped them develop their products and ultimately get those products out onto the shelf.

[Image changes to show a close and then medium view of Megan talking to the camera]

The benefits the companies get is they get to build a relationship with that research team.

[Images move through of Megan seated with a male and female and in conversation, Megan smiling at the clients, and then Megan talking to the camera]

They can undertake the piece of work often more quickly, or more cheaply than if they needed to raise all the capital themselves.

[Camera zooms in a little on Megan talking to the camera, and then the image changes to show Megan sitting with a male client and talking]

And they’re working with an organisation of experts and bringing that expertise into their business early on.

[Images move through of Megan and the male client in conversation, and then Megan talking to the camera]

So, a problem that a start-up might come to us with is that they require a specific capability that they don’t have in house. So, that’s where the Kick-Start team comes in.

[Images move through of a close view of a laptop, and then a male on a computer screen talking to two people seated at a table]

We fully facilitate the programme. So, you just reach out to us.

[Images move through of a male and female in conversation, Megan talking to the camera, a male looking at an insect picture in a large book, and the male and female’s faces]

Then we will have a chat with you to understand your requirements and where we might be able to assist you. From there we will go through the organisation and find who would be the best research partner and connect you with them directly.

[Images move through to show a male and female looking at a Smartphone screen, a view of a Banded Huntsman on the Smartphone screen, and Megan talking to the camera]

So, if you are an Australian business, you can reach out to us at any time to have that conversation, and you never know where it’s going to take you.

[Image changes to show the CSIRO logo on a white screen, and text appears: CSIRO, Australia’s National Science Agency]

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