A senior figure within the CSIRO says SMEs should become more engaged with research institutions, leveraging academic knowledge and equipment to improve their profitability and performance.
Dr Cathy Foley, science director and deputy director of manufacturing at the CSIRO, says research bodies are becoming much more adept at supporting SMEs to commercialise new ideas and innovations.
“The more important part particularly in manufacturing is looking at how we can make sure that the SMEs, which are 97 per cent of the companies in Australia, are able to be competitive so that they can go and bid for tenders with the majors and be able to then be part of the supply chains. Not just locally but globally,” Cathy tells My Business’ sister publication, Defence Connect.
“We're a high-cost nation in the sense our salaries are reasonably high. Therefore, it means we have to be smart in what we do, add a lot of innovation, a lot of know-how, a lot of cleverness in order to be competitive.
“As most of the companies in Australia are small, that means that they have to be really smart. But when you're small it's really hard to know where to reach out.”
In a bid to bridge this gap, Cathy says the CSIRO is establishing industry outreach programmes, such as one for SMEs currently or seeking to work with government in the field of defence.
“We've got an open access hub down in Melbourne where people can come there, learn how to do things, test things out, maybe make small products they need. They might even be able to do all their product line there,” she explains.
“[In Sydney] we've just got an industry innovation hub which the NSW government's given us a bit of money for where startups can come in or existing companies can come in and do some prototyping.
“There's so many great government programmes that will allow them to have access, whether it's through open access programmes within innovation hubs or research for in businesses.”