One of Malcolm Turnbull’s prime objectives in bringing down the National Innovation and Science Agenda (www.nisa.gov.au) in December 2015 was to provide some focus to the raft of local innovation and science programmes all aiming, in their own way, to assist Australia’s transition away from reliance upon the mining and oil & gas industries for the bulk of economic growth.
The first tranche of the NISA contained 24 measures designed to foster new ideas and approaches in innovation and science, and thus harness new sources of growth to deliver the nation’s next age of economic prosperity. The 24 measures are grouped under four pillars: Culture & Capital; Collaboration; Talent & Skills; and Government as Exemplar.
While the 24 measures sought, in the main, to adjust innovation drivers and incentives for institutions and firms with principally Australian operations, Prime Minister Turnbull was also anxious that NISA should extend specialist measures designed to address wider Government objectives to enhance Australia’s international science diplomacy and regional economic integration.
Within the eight (of 24) NISA measures directed at promoting ‘collaboration’, there was one stream of activity containing measures specifically designed to help Australia compete on an international level. Industry, Innovation and Science Minister, Greg Hunt, has since launched this package of measures as part of a $36 million (over four years) Global Innovation Strategy. The full Strategy document can be viewed at industry.gov.au/innovation/Global-Innovation-Strategy.
The four key streams developed under the Global Innovation Strategy have been structured to draw on whole-of-government resources by combining existing and new initiatives and support for ramping up the quantum of Australia’s international innovation and science engagement. They include:
- Establishing five ‘Landing Pads’ in global innovation hotspots to support entrepreneurial Australians access business talent, mentors, investors and a wider connected network of innovation hubs.
- Resourcing a seed funding initiative to assist Australian businesses and researchers to collaborate with international businesses and researchers through a Global Connections Fund.
- Funding a Global Innovation Linkages programme to assist Australian businesses and researchers collaborate with global partners on strategically focused, leading-edge research and development projects.
- Establishing a Regional Collaborations programme to strengthen regional linkages in the Asia-Pacific region by supporting multi-partner activities that facilitate greater science, research and industry collaboration focused on shared regional challenges.
1 – Landing Pads
Over the next four years the Government has allocated $11.2 million to provide market-ready startups with access to an initial operational base in one of five global innovation hotspots: San Francisco, Tel Aviv, Berlin, Shanghai and Singapore. The idea is to provide a platform from which Australian startups can take their ideas to market courtesy of a 90-day funded residency at a reputable international co-working space. Once established at a Landing Pad, market-ready startups will benefit from the provision of tailored business development assistance from an Austrade-appointed Landing Pad Manager possessing extensive in-market experience in identifying and facilitating access to customers, investors and strategic partners.Austrade will also leverage its established business and investor networks to provide Australian startups the opportunity to learn from some of the best global startup enterprises as they seek to develop their own strategies to conclude a business model capable of scaling up their businesses for international market expansion. Austrade is looking for Australian startups that are ready to go global and have:
- Vision – what are your objectives and how are you going to achieve them?
- Scalability – can you deliver your product or service to 100 or 1 million customers?
- Traction – do you have a proof-of-concept, existing sales and customers, funding, investors and partners?
- Differentiation – how does your offering disrupt its marketplace, and what is your value proposition and vision for growth?
- Market relevance – how would a 90-day residence in a Landing Pad make a difference to your startup?
Landing Pad participants will nevertheless be required to meet all costs associated with their travel, accommodation and insurance, along with obtaining an appropriate visa for the subject market. Upon being offered a space at a Landing Pad, Austrade will strike an agreement with each applicant that sets out terms and conditions and mutual obligations for each project.
Applications are now open for placements at any one of the five Landing Pads. For further information visit: australiaunlimited.com/landingpads.
2 – Global Connections Fund
The Global Connections Fund (GCF) has been allocated $4.9 million (over four years) to enable Australian small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs) and researchers to explore collaboration projects with international partners in industries of strategic growth in Australia. Two types of grants are being extended:
- Priming Grants – small grants of around $7,000 to enable Australian SMEs and researchers to physically meet with their international partners to further develop their collaborative ideas. The next round of Priming Grant allocations will take place in the first quarter of 2017.
- Bridging Grants – are intended to follow-on from Priming Grants with additional grants of up to $50,000 as seed funding capital to enable viable projects to grow in scope and scale, and to test commercialisation and proof-of-concept activities. The next call for Bridging Grant applications will be in 2017.
Access to the Global Connections Fund is being administered on behalf of the Australian Government by the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering (ATSE), application rounds are currently closed for 2016.|
Reference in drafting applications should be made to existing national industry and research and science priorities in the areas of: advanced manufacturing; food and agribusiness; medical technology and pharmaceuticals; mining equipment, technology and services; and oil, gas and energy resources.
For more information on accessing these grants, visit globalconnectionsfund.org.au/
3 – Global Innovation Linkages programme
The Global Innovation Linkages (GIL) programme has been allocated $16.5 million (over four years) to support groups (or consortia) of Australian industry and research organisations with grants – up to $1 million (excluding GST) per grant over a maximum of four years – to engage with international partners in key economies to undertake research and development projects. The programme objective is to assist Australian businesses and researchers to collaborate with global partners on strategically-focused, leading-edge R&D projects that will yield a high-quality product, service or process that specifically responds to current industry challenges. As such, the priority areas for investigation must align with relevant Australian Government Industry Growth Centre key themes, vision, strategic direction and/or Industry Knowledge Priorities. Nominated Industry Growth Centre disciplines encompass: Advanced Manufacturing – www.amgc.org.au; Food and Agribusiness – www.fial.com.au; Medical Technologies and Pharmaceuticals – www.mtpconnect.org.au; Mining Equipment, Technology and Services – www.metsignited.org; and Oil, Gas and Energy Resources – www.nera.org.au.
Each project will need to have a lead applicant and nominated project partners. To be a lead applicant, entities must have an ABN and must be: an Australian industry entity or an Australian research organisation. Nominated project partners must include at least: one Australian industry entity and one Australian research organisation, and one global partner from a nominated priority economy list encompassing: Brazil; China; the European Union; India; Israel; Japan; New Zealand; Singapore; South Korea; Switzerland; Taiwan; the USA and Vietnam. Project partners will be expected to at least match funding received under the GIL programme with cash and in-kind contributions – encompassing non-cash contributions (like access to facilities, staff salaries, etc.) that can be counted towards an applicant’s matched funding. For more information on the Global Innovation Linkages programme, including participation guidelines for the 2017 round, visit www.business.gov.au/GIL.
4 – Regional Collaboration Programme
The $3.2 million Regional Collaboration programme was launched by Industry Minister Hunt on 4 November 2016 and is designed to encourage research organisations, universities and R&D-intensive businesses to work with Asia-Pacific partners to deliver solutions to shared regional challenges.
Programme design is flexible, with no set minimum or maximum funding requirements for applicants as a means of fostering innovative ideas and collaborations. Funding will be applied to supporting either single-year or multi-year collaborative, multi-partner projects and non-project aligned collaborative workshops. Although there is no set minimum or maximum total project cost requirement, projects need to be structured on a 1:1 matched basis (cash only). A $50,000 project would therefore comprise $25,000 of programme funds and $25,000 (cash) from the project’s proponents.
Eligible budget items include: Salaries (including direct salary on-costs) for Australian personnel (researchers, support staff, fellowships and postgraduate students); direct support costs of research, translation and promotion of outcomes; international travel expenses (economy class airfare, associated living expenses, visa and insurance) for Australian personnel specifically engaged in project activities – but not to exceed 20% of the awarded funds; project-associated workshop costs (room hire and catering); and any other costs as agreed in writing with the programme administrator.
While there are no mandated priority areas from which applicants can draw research topics, guidance can be found in referencing Australia’s national Science and Research Priorities and associated practical research challenges, along with regional challenges identified through multilateral fora such as eAsia, the Asia–Pacific Economic Cooperation group (APEC), the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and proceedings of the East Asia Summit. Such groups regularly discuss issues such as: food and energy security; the challenge of managing aging populations; biosecurity; disaster resilience and accumulating environmental threats.
The Regional Collaboration programme is being managed by the Australian Academy of Science on behalf of the Australian Government. Applications are now open for eligible Australian research organisations and businesses who wish to apply for funding through Round One of the programme.
The deadline for the receipt of applications is 9am (AEDT) Monday, 16 January 2017. For more information visit science.org.au/regional-collaborations-programme.
|Trevor Thomas, BEcon, GDipBus
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