Tuesday, 24 January 2023 09:36

New CSIRO program makes R&D ‘more accessible for SMEs’ in mining sector

By Gordon Peters
Open cut mine Open cut mine

Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO says it is making commercial innovation more accessible for small to medium enterprises (SMEs) in the mining and mining equipment, technology and services (METS) sectors by offering a free online course for research and development (R&D) expertise and support.

Eligible SMEs that are in the early stages of engaging in R&D or pursuing a new idea in the mining/METS space can apply to Innovate to Grow - a 10-week online program where experienced researchers and innovation experts guide participants as they examine their technical or business challenges, explore R&D opportunities, and develop actionable business and funding plans.

The CSIRO says that upon completion of the program, participants may be able to access facilitation support, through CSIRO, to connect to research expertise nationally, and may be eligible for dollar-matched R&D funding.

Monika Szabo, SME Collaboration Manager for CSIRO, said the Innovate to Grow program was designed to help small-medium businesses understand how to engage in R&D by showing them pathways to access funding, mentoring, and a highly connected network through research organisations and their own sector.

“The Innovate to Grow program is aimed at Australian companies with less than 200 employees, and currently is offered at no cost to participants,” Dr Szabo said.

“In doing so we hope to remove some of the barriers that smaller enterprises face when they have an idea they would like to pursue.

“At the completion of the program participants will have received assistance in defining their goals, developing a business case for R&D from a university or CSIRO, and even prepare a funding proposal.

“Their professional networks will also receive a boost as they will connect with peers in their cohort, sector-specific mentors, and with CSIRO, which has the largest mineral resources R&D capability in the world,” she said.

API Management, which manages Australian Premium Iron Joint Venture, went through the Innovate to Grow program in 2021.

Principal Scientist at API Management, Alan Ooi, says it was a way to refresh their current knowledge of engaging with research organisations, available funding options, and how to prepare for partnering with the CSIRO or other universities.

“The mining industry has big challenges, with lots of elements that need to come together, and the CSIRO are playing a key part for our research and development goals,” Dr Ooi said.

“We would whole-heartedly recommend the Innovate to Grow program to other mining/METs companies, especially to help them gain R&D direction for their business opportunities,” he said.

API Management has since gone on to do a mineral processing project on potassium recovery with CSIRO through Innovation Connections, another program delivered by CSIRO on behalf of the Australian Government that assists SMEs to fast-track R&D projects with research and funding.

CSIRO’s Innovate to Grow: Mining/METS program commences Monday 9 March and is available for 20-25 SMEs. Eligibility criteria applies and applications close 13 February.

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