Aussie pioneers eye $20m to kickstart science into jobs

April 3, 2024 10:30 | News

Hundreds of startups are expected to benefit from a $20 million lifeline that extends CSIRO’s support out to 2028.

Industry and Science Minister Ed Husic and CSIRO’s chief executive Doug Hilton announced on Wednesday the funding across a range of industries for practical programs that support small to medium (SME) enterprises.

Some 50 or 60 enterprises stand to benefit each year across energy, agriculture, mining, manufacturing, digital health and medical technology.

Six hundred are also expected to sign up for a free online 10-week Innovate to Grow program to figure out how to take their ideas to the next level.

The enterprise turnover limit has been increased to $10 million from $1.5 million to ensure the program supports more established SMEs as well as startups.

“We’re flexible in where we support companies in their development,” Simon Hansen, director of CSIRO’s SME Connect program, told AAP.

“We wanted to provide confidence and certainty to the sector that there is a commitment that is going to see us actively supporting the sector until 2028,” he said.

SMEs employ more than two-thirds (68 per cent) of the private sector workforce and contribute more than half of Australia’s GDP.

The national science agency’s flagship program, CSIRO Kick-Start, has supported more than 280 company-led research and development projects since 2017, which have grown to be worth more than $2 billion.

With the annual global requirement for protein in 2050 to be almost double today’s consumption, Australian-grown lupin, soy or faba beans could be turned into biofuels or used in new products for climate-savvy consumers.

Horsham-based Australian Plant Proteins in Victoria is turning faba beans, grown to give fields a rest, into protein powders.

“We helped them demonstrate the extraction of protein from the faba bean and set up a decent-sized manufacturing facility,” Mr Hansen said.

Canberra-based climate tech startup Goterra uses insect farms and industrial robotics to convert food waste into sustainable protein and fertiliser.

Goterra founder Olympia Yarger even had the Australian soldier fly Hermetia olympiae named after her while working with CSIRO on harnessing larvae to process food waste and reduce greenhouse gases.

Kick-Start connected Goterra with leading scientists, technological advancement and business opportunities, she said.

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