Industrial pioneers get $20m to turn science into jobs

Australia’s industrial pioneers will benefit from a $20 million lifeline that extends federal support through the national science agency.

“With today’s announcement, up to 750 more small businesses will get their chance to work with CSIRO to commercialise their ideas,” Industry and Science Minister Ed Husic said on Wednesday.

Alongside CSIRO’s chief executive Doug Hilton, Mr Husic announced the funding injection 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.

“We’re a pro-industry, pro-manufacturing, pro-jobs government which is really important for making these sorts of investments,” Mr Husic said at climate tech startup Goterra.

Canberra-based 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.

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.

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

“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.

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.

For example, 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.

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


Marion Rae
(Australian Associated Press)


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