The  UNSW Defence Research Institute (UNSW DRI) has been exploring how research and development partnerships between UNSW and small to medium enterprises (SMEs) can support ongoing revenue generation for our partners. It has developed business models based on recent collaborative projects that have generated more than $3.1 million in funding for SMEs.

The model explored in this article is designed to leverage programs other than the standard defence industry funding mechanisms.

The standard mechanisms for defence industry to access government funding for innovation, research, and development – the Defence Innovation Hub  and the Next Generation Technology Fund  – are often dominated by international primes. Other government funding mechanisms encourage collaborative research and development projects between SMEs and research partners, with a focus on creating value for Australian SMEs.

Innovation Connections (IC) and Collaborative Research Centre – Projects (CRC-P) grants and programs support Australian SMEs in developing innovative business practices, services, technologies and products in partnership with Australian research institutions. The UNSW DRI has been successful in leveraging funding from these programs to facilitate collaboration between Australian SMEs and UNSW researchers.

These successes have led to further collaborative research contracts with industry and government stakeholders. The UNSW DRI has, based on these successes, developed a model that begins with initial value creation in an IC project through to ongoing revenue generation, including winning CRC-P grants.

The IC program is an excellent initial step for a successful collaboration leading to ongoing revenue generation. The placement of a researcher at the SME and/or SME staff at UNSW is supported by government funding of up to $50,000 each – a potential $100,000 in funding for a collaborative project.

In the past, SMEs have worked with UNSW DRI to outline an essentially cost-neutral research contribution, reducing the overall project cost for the SME. An additional benefit of the IC program is that SMEs who complete the first program are eligible to apply for a second project with the same partners under the IC program.

The Collaborative Research Business Model

The CRC-P scheme provides a funding opportunity for a larger-scale, collaborative project between at least two SMEs and UNSW. In the past, the UNSW DRI has worked with an SME to develop a proposal in an emerging market in which UNSW is a recognised research leader.

The proposal leveraged the ability of UNSW researchers to develop a prototype capability and the SMEs capability to commercialise project outcomes for market release.

This proposal was highly successful, and the SME partner received $3 million – the maximum award available – from the CRC-P program. One of the criteria in the CRC-P selection process was evidence of previous collaboration between the lead SME and UNSW. This criterion was able to be demonstrated through the previous IC programs and the follow-on Commonwealth contracts resulting from those projects.

The UNSW DRI team can provide further information on how we can partner to leverage programs such as those described above to create value and ongoing revenue in the Defence market.

For more information Contact Business Development Manager Mick Cook