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CSIRO invests $20m to drive SME innovation

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.

Dr Doug Hilton, CSIRO’s chief executive said, “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.”

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.

“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,” said Hilton.

CSIRO report 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.

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, with alumni companies collectively holding a market value exceeding $2 billion.

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.

“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,” said Hanson.

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.

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