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CSIRO commits $20 million to SME Connect program

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CSIRO has announced $20 million in funding for its SME Connect program, which it says will allow the program to support “up to 750 SMEs through a range of programs and initiatives” including through facilitation, training, dollar-matched funding.

SME Connect aims to help small to medium-sized businesses connect with R&D help. It runs programs such as CSIRO Kick-Start, Innovate to Grow and the RISE Accelerator. .

“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,” said CSIRO’s Chief Executive, Dr Doug Hilton, in a statement on Wednesday..

“CSIRO’s fundamental role as the national science agency is to create benefits for Australia and that includes helping to drive SMEs 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 companies with up to 199 employees, and make up an estimated 99.8 per cent of Australian businesses.

According to the national science agency, one of the SME Connect programs – CSIRO Kick-Start – has facilitated over 280 company-led R&D projects since it started in 2017, with alumni companies collectively holding a market value over $2 billion.

Waste management company Goterra – which uses insects and robotics to process food waste – is one company that participated in CSIRO Kick-Start.

Founder Olympia Yarger said: “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.

More on SME Connect is available here.

Picture black soldier fly larvae transforming food waste for Goterra. (Credit CSIRO/Geoffrey Dunn)

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