The New South Wales government has launched a new program that offers small and medium-sized businesses grants to solve problems for state government agencies.
The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program, launched on Tuesday, will receive $24 million in funding over its first two years.
The program was recommended in a research & development action plan released by the state government earlier this year, Premier Gladys Berejiklian noted.
“The action plan stressed the increasing need to be proactive in supporting and attracting new businesses, especially in future industries that will sustain economic growth, productivity and employment,” she said.
“The SBIR program will provide competitive grants for SMEs to find and commercialise innovative solutions to NSW government agencies for five well-defined problems.”
Government agencies have identified five challenges requiring an innovative solution for the 2021 SBIR program, including:
- Connectivity — Non-terrestrial connectivity technologies to improve connectivity across the state (NSW Telco Authority).
- Hyperlocal navigation — Technology solutions to assist people with vision impairments using public transport (Transport for NSW).
- Koala count — Technology solutions to more rapidly and effectively quantify the number and geographical extent of koalas (Department of Planning, Industry and Environment).
- Personal Protective Equipment — Solutions to minimise waste associated with discarded PPE and sterile wrap (Ministry of Health).
- Water purification — Technology solutions to identify, quantify, and remove microplastics in wastewater (Ministry of Health).
The program has three phases, with the first being a feasibility study. SMEs can submit a proposal to solve one of the five challenges, and each successful applicant will receive a grant of up to $100,000 to conduct a feasibility study. Applications for the study are open from June to August, and the studies will begin in October.
Phase two is a proof of concept. Successful feasibility study grantees will be able to apply for this phase in January 2022. Each successful applicant will receive up to $1,000,000 to develop a proof of concept over a period of up to 15 months. Those projects are expected to commence in March 2022.
In phase three, NSW government agencies will consider buying the successful solutions.
David Gonski, who chairs the advisory council that guided the R&D action plan, has welcomed the SBIR program launch.
“The impact of COVID-19 on economic growth and job creation makes the task to commercialise more R&D an urgent one,” he said.
“Rapidly translating ideas into new products and services will be integral to our recovery from the pandemic.”