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CSIRO Empowering SMEs in Advanced Manufacturing

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Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO, is heralding a new era of innovation by extending an invitation to Small to Medium Enterprises (SMEs) engaged in advanced manufacturing solutions. Through a self-paced, 10-week online programme dubbed “Innovate to Grow,” CSIRO aims to provide SMEs with a transformative opportunity to translate ideas into tangible research and development (R&D) ventures.

Launched in 2020, the programme has already left an indelible mark by equipping over 500 SMEs with the requisite knowledge and tools to advance their research endeavours. Now, with a recent AU$20 million investment announcement, CSIRO is poised to expand its support, bolstering an additional 600 SMEs through the Innovate to Grow programme, with an initial focus on the Advanced Manufacturing cohort.

Image credits: CSIRO

This substantial investment underscores CSIRO’s unwavering commitment to fostering innovation and growth within Australia’s SME sector. Dr Doug Hilton, CSIRO’s Chief Executive, emphasised the pivotal role of SMEs as drivers of Australia’s future. He highlighted the agency’s fundamental mission to create benefits for the nation, particularly by enhancing SMEs’ productivity, sustainability, and growth through increased access to R&D opportunities. SMEs, constituting a staggering 99.8% of businesses, contribute significantly to Australia’s GDP and employment, making them indispensable to the nation’s economic fabric.

Simon Hanson, Director of CSIRO’s SME Connect, underscored the significance of collaboration between industry and the research sector in ensuring the longevity and success of Australian SMEs. He noted that the investment injection would enable CSIRO to bridge this collaboration gap effectively, fostering meaningful partnerships between businesses and academia to drive innovation and growth within the SME ecosystem.

CSIRO’s SME Connect team has been instrumental in supporting start-ups and SMEs across diverse industry sectors, including technology, manufacturing, agriculture, mining, energy, health, and biosecurity. The team’s efforts are further bolstered by a suite of programmes and initiatives, including CSIRO Kick-Start, Innovate to Grow, Generation STEM Links, RISE Accelerator, and the Collaboration Readiness Levels tool. These initiatives serve as practical pathways for SMEs to leverage CSIRO’s extensive research capabilities and expertise, empowering them to integrate cutting-edge innovations into their operations.

Image credits: CSIRO

Marcus Zipper, CSIRO’s Director of Manufacturing, highlighted the pivotal role of advanced manufacturing in Australia’s economic landscape. With over 800,000 people employed in the sector nationwide, it represents a critical domain for research and development. CSIRO collaborates closely with SMEs to introduce new technologies aimed at enhancing efficiency, productivity, health, safety, and environmental outcomes while driving prosperity across the manufacturing sector.

The Innovate to Grow programme emerges as a beacon of hope for SMEs venturing into early-stage R&D or exploring novel solutions within advanced manufacturing. Successful participants gain access to expert facilitators and experienced researchers, enabling them to formulate impactful research questions, seek strategic partnerships, and develop compelling R&D business cases and funding proposals.

Open to SMEs working across various sub-sectors, Innovate to Grow: Advanced Manufacturing encompasses a diverse array of fields, including robotics, additive manufacturing, advanced materials and processes, mechatronics design and engineering, energy storage and battery technology, sensing and detecting technologies, natural products manufacturing, and biomedical manufacturing.

In essence, CSIRO’s AU$20 million investment signifies a resolute commitment to fostering innovation, collaboration, and growth within Australia’s SME sector. By equipping SMEs with the tools, resources, and expertise needed to thrive in the dynamic landscape of advanced manufacturing R&D, CSIRO is poised to propel Australia towards a future defined by prosperity, resilience, and technological prowess.


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