Following some key conversations at Science meets Parliament last year (2017), the Managing Director of gemaker, Natalie Chapman, was better able to engage and work with MPs to improve funding access for small Australian mining and exploration companies.
Australian company Alkane Resources was seeking Government export investment for the $1b state-significant Dubbo Project which will provide new age metals for vital modern technology including electric cars and wind turbines.
Australia’s export credit agency, Efic – which can finance projects such as this – was constrained by its mandate, which prevented Australian junior miners and explorers from accessing vital support.
Following day one of Science meets Parliament; Natalie said she had gained deeper insights into how to better grow and leverage wider support for policy change.
“I picked up some useful connections and tips on how to tailor my message based on the Parliamentarians’ drivers and the timing of parliamentary processes” said Natalie.
“I was also able to share learnings from my own work by engaging in useful discussions with Members of Parliament who wanted to know why research commercialisation wasn’t working as well as it could be in Australia.”
Meetings were held with the local member for Parkes, Mark Coulton MP, the Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, Steven Ciobo MP and the NSW Department of Industry and Department of Resources and Energy to outline the issues for small mining and exploration companies.
In September 2017, the Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, Steven Ciobo MP announced the funding obstacle for these Australian companies was removed.
With the mandate amended, Alkane Resources is now eligible to apply for funding for the Dubbo Project which will create hundreds of jobs in rural NSW and hundreds of millions of dollars in export revenue.
First published by Science & Technology Australia
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Companies developing new ways to diagnose cancer, platforms to connect work and learning, next generation WiFi chips and quantum computing firmware are among the first to receive investment from Main Sequence Ventures, manager of the $200 million CSIRO Innovation Fund.
Acting Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, Senator the Hon Michaelia Cash, says the launch of Main Sequence Ventures is an important step to ensure we can further harness Australian innovation to create new enterprises and the jobs of tomorrow.
“As part of the Turnbull Government’s National Innovation and Science Agenda, the CSIRO Innovation Fund is designed to ensure our world-class research can be turned into the jobs and economic growth of the future,” says Minister Cash.
Main Sequence Ventures will support new spin-out and start-up companies, and SMEs engaged in the translation of research generated in the Australian publicly funded research sector.
Main Sequence Ventures’ first investments in Q-Ctrl, Intersective, Morse Micro and Maxwell MRI are expected to create more than 60 new jobs.
CSIRO Chief Executive Larry Marshall says Australia has never been short of great ideas, but the value is rarely captured domestically. Australia’s scientists are world leaders, but investing in science driven innovation is hard – it needs the horsepower of Australia’s national science agency behind it.
“Science can drive change across the economy despite global disruption, improve our nation’s health and sustainability and make business globally competitive.
“This is a team Australia effort, with the Fund investing in the best ideas across the research community. This will help Australia better capture the value of science, deliver impact and drive the jobs and industries of the future,” says Dr Marshall.
Main Sequence Ventures is led by veteran venture capitalist Bill Bartee along with a team of venture capitalists and entrepreneurs with extensive experience in science and technology.
“Our first investments are giving us a great start in backing ambitious entrepreneurs to build important and growing companies,” says Mr Bartee.
“Q-Ctrl has the potential to provide the firmware framework for quantum computers, Morse Micro is building the next generation of WiFi chip, Intersective is using data science to better equip our workers for the future and Maxwell MRI is changing the way we detect and diagnose prostate cancer.
“This is some of the best and most exciting research from the Australian innovation sector, and we look forward to working with them to realise their potential in the commercial market.
“We at Main Sequence Ventures know that this is only the beginning, and many more high-potential companies will be able to grow from our investments. We look forward to working with Australia’s deep tech founders to build epic companies.”
This information on the CSIRO Innovation Fund was first shared by CSIRO on 30 October 2017.
Featured image above: Cancer research at the Cancer Therapeutics Cooperative Research Centre has received a funding boost. Credit: CTx
The Chief Executive of the Cancer Therapeutics Cooperative Research Centre (CTx), Dr Warwick Tong, announced last week that a majority of its current partners have chosen to reinvest their share of the recent cash distribution from CTx back into the organisation.
In January 2016 CTx licensed its PRMT5 Project to MSD (known as Merck in the US and Canada) in a landmark deal and received over $14 million dollars as its share of the signature payment. Novel drugs arising from the project will be developed and commercialised by Merck. Potential future milestone payments and royalties will also be shared within the partnership.
“Our 2013 application to the Department of Industry CRC Programme outlined the intent to actively secure reinvestment of funds from any commercialisation success back into our cancer drug development activities”, said Tong. “To have this commitment from our partners is the validation and support we wanted.
“The more than seven million dollars will boost our ability to deliver new cancer drugs for adults and children”.
“CTx has made great use of its partnership network to deliver this project,” said Professor Grant McArthur Chair of the CTx Scientific Advisory Board. “The reinvestment is a very positive recognition by the partners that CTx will continue to provide benefits for patients and strengthen translational cancer research in Australia”.
1. Make sure there is a viable, readily accessible market that is sufficiently large to support a spin-off company.
2. The actual invention is only the trigger to start a company – you are establishing a company that will need to innovate on an ongoing basis if it wants to be successful. Make sure that innovation capability and desire exists and thrives in the spin-off.
3. Identify competent board and management capability to direct the business and generate revenue for the company. Most often the management capability is not the same people who carried out the research, but sometimes it can be. Without the right people running the show, the spin-off will not be successful.
4. Make sure you have sufficient funding available to get the company through to a viable revenue stream, and ideally flexible funding arrangements. Unexpected things will happen and you need capability to accommodate those changes.“
“Most start-ups are focused on development plans that contain binary events and marginal financing. This makes them vulnerable to unforeseen delays and additional development steps that require additional funding.
I believe that we should be looking to generate portfolios of innovation under experienced management teams that give our projects the best chance of success – and adequate funding to reach proof of concept in whatever market we are targeting – but at the same time help to spread risk.“
“Ensuring a strong board, CEO, and a quality management team will be critical to success. The availability of funds for programs is an often-discussed barrier to rapid progress. Underfunded companies and poorly thought-out product concepts or technologies are more likely to fail early.“
“1. For biotechnology R&D spin-off start-ups in Australia, major hurdles are the dearth of seed capital as well as access to large follow-on venture funds that are needed to build successful biotechnology companies.
2. There is a mismatch between the 10-year life span of a venture capital fund in Australia and the 15+ years needed to translate research findings into a novel drug or biologic product for improving human health.
3. Hence, these systemic issues are major impediments to building successful biotechnology companies in Australia and these issues need to be addressed.”
– Professor Maree Smith, Executive Director of the Centre for Integrated Preclinical Drug Development and Head of the Pain Research Group at The University of Queensland
There are two potential ‘valleys of death’ for R&D spin-off companies. One is in translating their research concepts into prototype products. The other is in maturing from prototype to full commercialisation.
“Taking the prototype through to full commercialisation was probably more difficult for us due to the complexities involved.
This included high-tech scale-up manufacturing, which we do at our bio-manufacturing facility in Malaga. Today, we have the ability to expand production as necessary, as well as refine and develop our processes in-house to accommodate new products and product improvements.
There was also a focus on generating sales once CardioCel was commercialised. Just because a product is approved doesn’t necessarily mean that it will be used straight away by the intended customers.
We’ve focused on educating the market about the benefits of CardioCel, such as its biocompatibility and lack of calcification (hardening) at the site of surgery. We’ve also built a strong global sales and marketing team who work closely with our customers to understand their needs.
As a result, we’ve seen continued quarter-on-quarter growth in CardioCel sales, and the product is now used in over 135 heart centres globally.“
“For pharmaceuticals the so called ‘second valley of death’ is by far the most significant.
Lack of funding often prevents companies from attempting to cross this valley and causes them to license their technology at an earlier stage and to realise rewards as the licensor takes their innovation to market.
For a small company with limited resources, the key to success here is to understand the commercialisation risks, link the higher-risk projects with partners and try to make that step themselves for markets with lower entry costs and higher clinical need.
If done well, they should end up with a portfolio approach with the risks mitigated but still significant opportunity for value appreciation.”
“SmartCap Technologies had substantial industry support to develop the prototype products, however even with this it was a very challenging process to deliver working prototypes.
SmartCap was exceedingly fortunate in that CRCMining provided substantially more financial support for SmartCap than originally envisaged, enabling it to finally deploy the prototype products. Those prototypes were sufficiently effective to generate commercial interest from some large mining companies.
So despite having robust plans in place, it always helps to have access to further funding, via investors or other stakeholders with a high level of commitment as well as deep pockets, to overcome unforeseen eventualities.”
“The biggest hurdle may be the combination of the two – translating research concepts (i.e. technical information associated with the technology) following commercialisation into an immature market.
Catapult‘s technology is not a consumer product and therefore is very high touch in terms of its service and client support. Due to the perceived complexity of the information obtained from the technology, part of the trick is to simplify the underlying research concepts to new markets that need a low touch product.”
“I would argue that you should have a prototype – before any spin-off. That way you can at least prove technical viability of your concept. Ideally you would also have done some level of customer validation.
The next step of full commercialisation is definitely the hardest.
In our case it was a matter of finding early customers that were willing to spend time assessing the product and its benefits – even though it was too early to commit to a purchase and full roll-out. This phase was key to understanding the market and adjusting our path.”
“The first phase is the most difficult – a poor prototype will show its deficiencies later in development. A prototype needs to demonstrate a safe and efficacious profile, and that it will meet the need you have defined in the target market.”
“We are in the middle of our valley of death translating our platform into the clinic and we have not yet overcome it. Data is key, but one needs the funds to produce the results! So, we are seeking investors wherever we can find them and buddying up to big pharmaceuticals who have the muscle to progress our technology.”
– Dr Jennifer Macdiarmid, pictured above with Dr. Himanshu Brahmbhatt, joint Chief Executive Officers and Directors
Stories of ‘unicorn’ Initial Public Offerings and billionaires in their 30s are great. But it’s the creation of quality jobs that truly makes innovation a national priority.
A recent report from the Office of the Chief Economist showed Australia added about one million jobs from 2006–11. Start-up companies added 1.4 million jobs, whereas older companies shed 400,000 jobs over the same period. But it’s not any start-up that matters; only 3.2% of start-ups take off in a dramatic fashion, providing nearly 80% of those new jobs. While Australia has a relatively high rate of companies starting up, the key seems to be getting more of them into high-growth mode.
When Israel faced a massive influx of immigrants after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1990, it turned to innovation as a means of providing jobs. Given the country’s lack of natural resources, they didn’t have a choice. A population of four million people taking in one million more meant Israel had to become an innovative economy.
They grew their investment in research and development dramatically – to the point where Israel is now one of only two countries consistently spending more than 4% of GDP on R&D.
Israel has translated that spending into high-tech export success. Now, multinational technology company Intel employs over 10,000 Israelis. The Israeli Government is hands-on in its approach to de-risking early stage companies. But this is not achieved through government spending alone. In fact, the Israeli Government’s share of total R&D spending is just one-third of that of Australia, and its higher education sector is just one half. Business carries the lion’s share of R&D spending in Israel, making up 80% of the total, compared with 60% in Australia.
If we want jobs, we need innovation. We are in a unique period when there seems to be complete political agreement on this point. If we want innovation, we should take lessons from wherever we can learn them to develop the Australian system. A lesson from Israel is to use government spending more effectively at the early stages of company development to shift more start-ups into high-growth mode. If we could double the current 3.2% of today’s start-ups that become high-growth companies, we could provide more rewarding jobs for Australia’s future.
Israel concentrates almost 100% of its government innovation support for business on small and medium-sized enterprises. The comparable figure for Australia is 50% – a big hint for what we could do differently to fire up our start-up sector.
Funding of $7.8 million to take bright Aussie ideas to the world
The Assistant Minister for Innovation, Wyatt Roy announced that a further 17 Australian companies will receive commercialisation grants under the Entrepreneurs’ Programme.
The Entrepreneurs’ Programme is the Australian Government’s flagship initiative for business competitiveness and productivity at the firm level.
The $7.8 million has been offered to assist the 17 Australian companies launch their innovative products, processes or services into the global marketplace and help advance Australian industries.
Some of the products, processes or services include:
• a device to optimise carbon use and maximise gold recovery for the gold mining industry
• a software and training platform for the agribusiness sector to help improve farm profitability, business management and sustainability
• a real-time, cloud-based data management system for intelligent buildings and smart cities
• laser-based 3D printing for lighter, more easily produced metal components for aerospace and defence applications
• advanced manufacturing for reliable, cheaper and highly efficient silicon solar cells
• a world-first clinical diagnostics device to help assess the health of the human gut.
The Entrepreneurs’ Programme commercialisation grants help Australian entrepreneurs, inventors and businesses address the challenges associated with commercialising novel intellectual property.
It aims to:
• accelerate the commercialisation of novel intellectual property in the form of new products, processes and services;
• support new businesses based on novel intellectual property with high growth potential; and
• generate greater commercial and economic returns from both public and private sector research and facilitate investment to drive business growth and competitiveness.
Further information on Entrepreneurs’ Programme and the grant recipients is available on business.gov.au or call 13 28 46.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull recently announced the creation of a National Innovation and Science Agenda which includes funding, tax incentives and a strong focus on education initiatives to up the ante for Australia in terms of its innovation output.
The policy comes off the back of increased push since the Prime Minister gained office on the need to position Australia more strongly in the global economy and to facilitate a rapid move from traditional income from resources and manufacturing to one based on ‘ideas and entrepreneurship’.
Early announcements include:
$8 million in a network of incubators helping start-ups get the resources, knowledge and networks they need to take their ideas to the world
New arrangements to encourage collaboration between researchers and industry, including streamlining and refocussing a greater proportion of research block grant funding toward collaboration, with an addition $127 million in funding
A $36 million Global Innovation Strategy to support businesses and researchers to collaborate with their global counterparts on research with landing pads established for Australian entrepreneurs and startups in Tel Aviv, Silicon Valley and three other key locations
$99 million investment in programmes to boost digital literacy and skills in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) amongst young Australians
$13 million to increasing opportunities for women in research, STEM industries, startups and entrepreneurial firms
The Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, Christopher Pyne, said: “The release of the Agenda is just the beginning. The next step will be a national discussion around this new way of thinking and doing, and the importance of innovation and science to our future.
“We will highlight the successes to date and inspire all Australians to be involved in shaping our future and harnessing the potential of our ideas,” Mr Pyne said.
Professor Steven Tingay, Director of the MWA at Curtin University, says the upgrades would make the telescope ten times more powerful in its exploration of the evolution of the Universe.
“By increasing the number of telescope antennas and the surface area of the MWA, the telescope will strengthen tenfold, like a weightlifter capable of lifting 100 kg suddenly being able to lift 1000 kg,” says Tingay.
Tingay described the MWA as a ‘time machine’ designed to look back in time more than 12 billion years, to watch the formation of the first stars and galaxies in the Universe, less than one billion years after the Big Bang.
“The MWA has been operating for almost three years and has collected over seven petabytes of data already, the equivalent of almost half a million High Definition movies,” he says.
“With the upgrade that this grant provides, we will able to collect even more and better data, helping to advance our understanding of the last unstudied phase of cosmic evolution.”
An international consortium of 15 organisations from Australia, USA, India and New Zealand built and operate the MWA, led by Curtin University.
Key science, engineering and computing developments for the SKA are being tested and verified by the MWA, providing critical expertise to the SKA project. This includes working closely with key national initiatives such as the Pawsey Supercomputing Centre.
In the last two years, more than 70 scientific publications have been developed from MWA data. The MWA team also recently won a prestigious award for the telescope’s scientific impact from Thomson Reuters.
– April Kleer
This article was first published on 30 October by Curtin University. Read the original article here.
“Up to $748.3 million in ARC grants will be available in the 2017–18 financial year, while up to $739.6 million will be available in 2018–19,”says Birmingham.
“This legislation secures funding for the Future Fellowships programme after the previous Labor Government left a funding cliff that provided zero dollars for a Future Fellows Scheme from 2015 onwards.”
“High quality research can help save lives, protect the environment, raise living standards for people around the world, create business opportunities and efficiencies, and drive the innovation and creativity needed for the jobs of the future.”
“If the Bill is passed this year, an estimated 2600 New Zealanders will be eligible for loans to help them study at university, or for higher level vocational education and training qualifications, in 2016,” Birmingham says.
The Bill follows legislation currently before the Parliament which allows data sharing between Australia and New Zealand to support the Australian Government’s requirement for anyone who moves overseas to continue to pay back their Australian student loan just as they would if they lived in Australia.
The Bill will also make Torrens University Australia eligible for research block grant funding, placing it on an equal footing for university research funding as other Australian private universities, and recognise Ballarat University’s name change to Federation University.