Qld unveils reef SBIR challenge

James Riley
Editorial Director

Leeanne Enoch may no longer hold the Innovation portfolio, but she continues to take advantage of the state’s Advance Queensland initiative, launching a new challenge through Queensland’s Small Business Innovation Research program to help preserve and restore the Great Barrier Reef.

Together with acting state Innovation minister Shannon Fentimen and the federal Minister for Environment minister Josh Frydenberg, Ms Enoch unveiled a $2 million “innovation challenge,” open to business leaders, innovators and entrepreneurs.

Ms Fentimen acknowledged that the Advance Queensland SBIR program is a very different approach to how the government has tackled the Great Barrier Reef in the past.

Innovation reef: Looking for new thinking on preserving the reef

“Sometimes the best solution to a problem can be looking at it from a different angle and approaching it in a new way,” she said.

“This program is a way of encouraging researchers and innovators from different fields around the world to come together to tackle a problem and to seek solutions from a broad range of expertise and experience.

“It’s about giving the best and brightest experts in science and innovation in the world a chance to address the biggest threat to the Great Barrier Reef.”

Applicants can apply for a share of up to $1 million, which is available to fund a Feasibility stage. It is anticipated that a number of solutions will be explored, with individual contracts not expected to exceed $250,000.

A further $1 million is then available to develop the best solutions through the subsequent Proof of Concept stage.

The government is also encouraging organisations to collaborate on developing solutions. James Cook University is one organisation that has put its hands up to work with others.

“I think it’s a really great initiative from the government because ultimately the changes are quite significant on the reef and there have been substantial changes in the last couple of years. It’s time to take action and do something,” said Robert Buhrke, JCU research business development manager.

“It’s a real sign of strength, and that the Queensland government is considering that maybe others have great ideas. The ability to execute and really do something about it requires a multi-disciplinary team and working with world-leading experts to propose a new world,” Mr Buhrke said.

“The method the government is using has worked for others areas. It’s a model that has worked somewhere, and if they get the selection right and the right teams, then we should see some positive results. It’s a step in the right direction.”

Ian McGregor, strategic accounts director from Trimble Australia Solutions, another company seeking a partner, agreed that seeing government reach out to the industry will give them access to alternative solutions.

“I think the reason it needs to happen this way is because government in those areas don’t have a lot of market immersion,” Mr McGregor said.

“They usually look at internal government resources for design processes and procedures without knowing what capabilities exist in the marketplace.

“If it’s driven from industry, we can help make those decisions and bring those ideas to life.”

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