Research and development grants awarded through the CISRO’s Kick-Start program will now be accessible to larger small and medium-sized enterprises, with firms earning up to $10 million now eligible for funding.
The updated limit is in line with the Australian Taxation Office’s definition of a small business, which considers businesses with an aggregated turnover of less than $10 million.
Previously, only firms with an annual turnover of up to $1.5 million were eligible under the program, which has supported 260 small business projects and “contributed $24 million in R&D activities” since 2017.
The Kick-Start program is designed to help businesses scale by providing matched funding between $10,000 and $50,000 in value, with the national science agency also helping to connect the most suitable CSIRO researcher or research team with the business.
Project proposals must focus on research for a new idea with commercial potential, development of a novel or improved product or process, or the testing of a novel product developed by the small business to inform other research and development activities.
A spokesperson for CSIRO said the expansion of the eligibility criteria is a “a proactive approach in responding to the growing demand and the challenges faced by businesses in securing support for R&D activities”.
They also noted that CSIRO expects the increased interest from the expansion of the eligibility criteria will increase the amount of funding committed to the program as a result of the expansion of the eligibility criteria.
Facilitation services to refine the small business’ research question is also a part of the program. Businesses that have been operating for less than three years are also eligible to apply to the program.
CSIRO new chief executive Dr Doug Hilton said the expansion of the program means “we can offer more Australian businesses, more Australian innovators, more Australian entrepreneurs’ access to the resources, knowledge, and support they need to flourish”.
More than 2.5 million business with an annual turnover less than $10 million existed in Australia, as of June 2022. This represents 98.3 per cent of the businesses in Australia.
Dr Hilton told InnovationAus.com earlier this month that part of CSIRO’s role should be “in supporting SMEs to embrace research, [and in] stimulating entrepreneurship among our scientists and others in the community”.
CSIRO Kick-Start program manager Dr Megan Sebben said that the Kick-start program “serves as a driver for change” for startups and SMEs to overcome barriers, such as limited expertise and insufficient funding, that hinder R&D access.
“In today’s rapidly evolving business landscape, innovation is the lifeblood of success,” she said in a statement.
Last week, Industry and Science minister Ed Husic told InnovationAus.com that he has asked CSIRO to increase its initiatives to engage with SMEs to enable greater access to its research and development activity.
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