Commercializing research

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Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation was recognized at the 2017 Institute of Public Administration Australia (IPAA) Public Sector Innovation Awards. Here, the Federal Government & Public Sector Leader for EY in Australia, Andrew Metcalfe, who was on the awards judging panel, speaks with Steve Brodie, the organization’s executive manager of innovation.

Andrew Metcalfe: You’ve developed a national accelerator, ON, to help researchers engage with industry and commercialize their research. How does it work?

Steve Brodie: ON is delivered as two accelerator experiences, an eight-week pre-accelerator program and a 12-week intensive program.

First, the research team validates an idea through customer discovery and market validation. Teams can test paths for their IP, know-how or technology to make a real-world impact and develop entrepreneurial capability.

Next, ON shortens the path to impact by concentrating commercialization efforts in a highly structured process of market validation.

Researchers are given frameworks to develop and test the most suitable business model and also given intensive coaching around effective storytelling, networking, business planning and pitching.

AM: Why do we need it?

SB: Australia currently ranks 33 out of 33 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries in the rate of research-business collaboration. ON is changing the way our science and research community thinks about the impact potential of their science and the practices they undertake to drive those innovations from the lab to the real world.

In practical terms, it helps researchers to validate that there is a problem out there worth solving and determine the business model to solve that problem.

AM: How has the research community reacted?

SB: We’ve had overwhelmingly positive uptake and engagement with the accelerator from all parts of Australia’s innovation ecosystem.

The ON Program has helped participating research teams to create eight new companies and directly increased the level of funding for the commercialization of Australian research by more than AUD$15 million.

For example, Cardihab has created the world’s only scientifically validated, home-based, smartphone-enabled cardiac rehabilitation that can be delivered by existing health care providers. Using ON, the team developed a full commercial proposition for its technology and has since attracted significant venture funding.

As one professor from Macquarie University said, “I was originally cynical about the ON Program because we were already selling products and so we thought we knew what it took to actually take our company forward. I was arrogant. I did not know everything there was to know. This program’s been great for me. This is the first time in 20 years that I have felt inspired."

Learn more about the 2017 IPAA Public Sector Innovation Awards.

Next interview: Connecting government ministers