A new collaboration between the CSIRO and the South East Melbourne Manufacturers Alliance (SEMMA) is encouraging scientists and small to medium businesses to join forces to improve the prospects for local manufacturing.
About 12 scientists from the CSIRO have visited three SEMMA member companies as part of a national strategy to build closer co-operation between science and industry . The CEOs of the three businesses provided an overview of their operations, while taking the scientists for a tour of the factory floor. Businesses were also given information on the work of SEMMA.
“The idea was to give both groups a greater understanding of each other’s worlds and for the scientists to gain first-hand experience of SMEs,” says Ros Hore, CSIRO’s Director – Melbourne Precincts.
“At the moment they (the companies) don’t even necessarily think about research as a solution. What we’re trying to do with this kind of project is break down those barriers.”
The initiative comes on the back of a recent report released by Australia’s Chief Scientist, which shows that Australia rates poorly on a global scale when it comes to innovation.
The report found that using OECD analysis of innovation active businesses, Australia ranked 32 out of 33 countries when it came to business to research collaboration for SMEs.
It also found that only 9.6 per cent of Australian SMEs collaborated with research organisations.
Ms Hore said CSIRO and SEMMA recognised the need to improve this situation.
After the recent visits, CSIRO scientists were encouraged to jot down their initial ideas for each business, with future meetings now planned to discuss the ideas.
“At the moment it’s not costing businesses anything other than their time,” says Ms Hore.
Down the track, the collaboration could lead to a range of different strategies, such as a business hosting a CSIRO researcher to potentially develop new products or new processes, businesses asking for help with technology issues, or simply taking advantage of CSIRO’s wide network of contacts.
More meet and greets are in the wings, with CSIRO scientists due to tour another two businesses on April 30.
Manufacturers interested in finding out more about the initiative can email Ros Hore at Ros.Hore@csiro.au.