Deep tech and its billion dollar opportunity for transformational change

September 07, 2020

While Australia is falling behind when it comes to producing R&D leaders playing on the global stage, the opportunity is there.

By Sally-Ann Williams, CEO, Cicada Innovations

On Saturday 22 August 2020, Cicada Innovations turned 20 years old. To celebrate the milestone, we released a report titled “Australia’s Deep Tech Opportunity — Insights from the Cicada Innovations Journey”. 

Prepared by AlphaBeta, the report looks at the impact deep tech businesses have in addressing global issues around healthcare, food security, energy, climate and more. It points out that while Australia is falling behind when it comes to producing R&D leaders playing on the global stage, the opportunity is there — and it could be one that both reignites a pandemic-affected economy, and solves major human and planetary needs in the process.

Only 12 of the 2,500 global R&D leaders are Australian companies, compared with countries with similar economies to ours like South Korea and Canada, who have 60 and 28 on the list respectively. For a country with such a rich history of innovation — cochlear implants, the flight recorder or blackbox, Resmed’s CPAP device and WiFi to name a few — this seems counterintuitive. 

Australian companies on the list of global R&D leaders include Cochlear, ResMed, and CSL Limited, which are now valued at $12b, $35b, and $127b respectively. Emulating the success of these companies could lead to a new generation of Australian deep tech corporates — a multi-billion dollar opportunity.

But how do we get there?

The catch lies in the fact that deep tech is both time and capital intensive, so in order for startups in this space to flourish, they need to be supported in the right way and for longer periods of time. Incubators are increasingly demonstrating their efficacy at successfully commercialising deep tech startups, providing these early stage companies with crucial inputs: access to finance, a business network, skilled workers, and specialised equipment and facilities. 

Being Australia’s first and longest running incubator with 20 years worth of learning and experience behind it, Cicada Innovations is uniquely positioned to take on the challenge of improving Australia’s global deep tech presence. However, we are the first to agree that this cannot be done in a silo.

It’s time for corporate leaders and the government to recognise the enormous benefits of investing in deep tech. Looking at just four of Cicada’s portfolio of 103 incubated deep tech companies, we can see $625m+ created via sales or IPOs — so there is a clear and significant medium-term opportunity for financial return from outsourcing R&D through direct investment. 

If the fires, floods, and global pandemic of 2020 have taught us anything, it’s that creativity, R&D, and collaboration are more vital than ever before. Australia’s deep tech opportunity is ripe for the taking: what’s our next move?

If you’d like to read Cicada Innovations’ report, you can download it here. If you’d like to discuss the report further with Cicada Innovations, please contact Sally-Ann Williams here:

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