CSIRO’s free R&D program opens to critical minerals SMEs

Brandon How

The latest round of CSIRO’s free research and development support service is targeting small to medium-sized enterprises in the critical minerals sector.

‘Innovate to Grow’ is a 10-week program that gives up to 25 small to medium sized businesses (SMEs) access to support from some of Australia’s leading researchers to help develop “actionable R&D business and funding plans”.

Before applications to the program close on April 14, prospective participants will be able to access an online onboarding session and access pre-workshop videos and other preparatory materials.

Critical Minerals. Image: CSIRO/Pamela Au

Some of the critical minerals subsectors that are eligible for the program include mining technology, ore characterisation and analysis, and mineral sorting and processing.

The opening of the program coincides with comments from Prime Minister Anthony Albanese that Australia must “look to add new value and create new jobs by boosting our processing and manufacturing capabilities” to leverage its significant reserves of critical minerals.

The latest iteration of the program is being sponsored by the Australian Critical Minerals Research and Development Hub, which is a collaboration between the CSIRO, Geoscience Australia, and the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation.

Previous rounds of the program have focused on cybersecurity, space industries, and digital health and medical technology.

To be eligible for the program, firms must be Australian-based firms, have less than 200 employees, and be considering research and development opportunities for their business are eligible for the program

The first week of the Innovate-to-grow program includes a half-day workshop for participants to hear from CSIRO industry and research experts on industry trends, engage in a panel discussion, and explore existing R&D funding opportunities at the CSIRO.

The following nine weeks will see participants work through a self-paced online innovation program with the support of a mentor and “experienced innovation facilitators to develop and test their research idea and business case”, according to the national science agency.

Participants will also have access to additional fortnightly webinars enabling networking and engagement with guest speakers.

The Australian Critical Minerals Research and Development Hub’s manager Lucy O’Connor said it is crucial to support the development of SMEs to drive innovation and improve the resilience of critical mineral supply chains.

“Scaling up and commercialising critical minerals projects requires strategic collaboration to address technical challenges and drive sustainable growth and innovation in this sector,” Ms O’Connor said.

“This program is designed to help SMEs navigate the complex landscape of R&D within the critical minerals sector and build new collaborative projects with the support of technical experts.”

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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