This morning I attended an information session run by the Business Research & Innovation Initiative (BRII).
I was impressed with the quality of the presentation, provided by Michael Burges. Since I’m new to the world of government funding, it was refreshingly clear. The best moment was when he clarified that the winning applicants would be able to fast track the open tender phase of the typical government procurement process – that brought a few sighs of relief from those who have already experienced the government procurement process.
This BRII program, which is accepting applications until November 30th, attempts to fill a gap in funding innovative initiatives prior to the Proof-of-Concept (POC) phase – at that stage you may qualify to apply for the Accelerating Commercialisation grant.
If you are thinking this is a good way for the government to burn money – handing out grants to ideas that have not yet reached POC – then you may like the way they are managing the inherent risk of funding a early stage idea.
BRII requested government agencies to submit their innovation challenges which they have been unable to solve through the typical channels (large established service providers or existing resources). They reviewed 9 applications and have accepted 5 government agency challenges:
- On-the-spot technology for measuring pyrethroid surface residue.
- Tracking the effect and value of information products.
- Digitally enabled community engagement in policy and programme design. (potentially using Blockchain)
- Improve transparency and reliability of water market information.
- Sharing of information nationally to ensure child safety.
Qualified SMEs (Small to Medium sized companies with less than $20m annual turnover) can now submit proposed solutions to any of these 5 challenges. If they are accepted, they will be funded up to $100K for a feasibility study over 3 months working closely with the agency that has the challenge. Each challenge has funding of $400K to spread across the best applicants.
The best 2 solutions that pass the feasibility study will be selected for funding up to $1M to develop a POC within 18 months. This funding will be paid out in line with the project milestones submitted in the proposal.
The evaluation criteria will focus on the applicability to the challenge at hand but also with an eye to commercialisation beyond the government agency. The idea behind this program is to link the SME with a “tame client” (the government agency with the challenge) to help an innovative idea get to a stage that can then be properly commercialised. We talk about the concept of a “tame client” in our upcoming book, Ready to Launch?
Through this program the SME retains all IP, a critical detail that was emphasised at the information session.
I’m excited to see the government attempting a new way to fund innovation and connect solutions with real problems. With a total of $12M AUD on the table and a mandate to distribute all of it, I’m sure there will be many SMEs competing for these grants. But innovation is always a risky game and it will take years before we know how well this approach worked out.
Good luck to all those applying!