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3 April 2024 News Release

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

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

One of the programs being supported is SME Connects flagship program, CSIRO Kick-Start. Since its inception in 2017, the Kick-Start program has facilitated over 280 company-led R&D projects, with alumni companies collectively holding a market value exceeding $2 billion.

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

“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 said.

“CSIRO’s fundamental role as the national science agency is to create benefits for Australia and 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.

“CSIRO is committed to its role within the innovation ecosystem of supporting SMEs in embracing research and providing access to the resources, knowledge, and support they need to flourish.”

SMEs are the backbone of Australia’s economy, constituting 99.8 per cent of businesses, contributing to more than half to the gross domestic product (GDP) and employing 68 per cent of the private sector workforce.

CSIRO’s SME Connect team has supported start-ups and SMEs across a broad range of industry sectors including technology, manufacturing, agriculture, mining, energy and health and biosecurity.

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

“Our research has shown that strong collaboration between industry and the research sector is crucial for the longevity and success of Australian SMEs,” Simon said.

“This funding injection enables us to encourage and 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.”

Goterra, an award-winning start-up based in Canberra, is a shining example of the success stories 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.

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,” explained Olympia.

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

CSIRO’s SME Connect delivers the following programs and initiatives; CSIRO Kick-Start, Innovate to Grow, Generation STEM Links, RISE Accelerator and the Collaboration Readiness Levels tool. For more information visit our website.


Goterra's Modular Infrastructure for Biological Services (MIB), harnessing the power of insects and robotics to regeneratively recycle food waste.
Trays used to house and feed the larvae inside the Modular Infrastructure for Biological Services. ©  Geoffrey Dunn
Black Soldier Fly larvae transforming food waste into sustainable by-products (protein and frass). ©  Geoffrey Dunn
Goterra: Breeding Black Soldier Flies and their larvae ©  Geoffrey Dunn

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