The CSIRO has encouraged small to medium enterprises (SMEs) to unlock critical minerals potential with a ten week online program designed to champion innovation accessibility for Australian businesses. 

The free ‘Innovate to Grow’ program aims to help SMEs acquire valuable business insights and strategic plans to leverage research and development (R&D) to meet their business needs.  

The Australian Critical Minerals Research and Development Hub is sponsoring the initiative, and Hub Manager, Lucy O’Connor, said SMEs play an integral role in driving innovation and enriching the diversity and resilience of critical minerals supply chains. 

“Scaling up and commercialising critical minerals projects requires strategic collaboration to address technical challenges and drive sustainable growth and innovation in this sector.

“This program is designed to help SMEs navigate the complex landscape of R&D within the critical minerals sector and build new collaborative projects with the support of technical experts.” 

The ‘Innovate to Grow’ program is designed for companies embarking on early-stage R&D or those venturing into new ideas within the critical minerals sector.

Successful participants are set to be given access to expert facilitators and experienced researchers, who will help them examine their technical or business challenges, explore R&D opportunities and develop actionable R&D business and funding plans.

“Participants will work through the self-paced materials and engage with researchers and industry experts to advance their project idea and discuss collaboration opportunities with R&D leaders at CSIRO, other science agencies and universities.

“Their professional networks will also receive a boost as they will connect with peers in their cohort, sector-specific mentors and with CSIRO, ANSTO and Geoscience Australia, which combined have the largest mineral resources R&D capability in the world.”

API Management, which manages the Australian Premium Iron Joint Venture, went through the Innovate to Grow program in 2021.

API Management Principal Scientist, Dr Alan Ooi, said the program provided the means to expand the company’s knowledge of engaging with research organisations, prepare them to partner with CSIRO or other universities and helped to understand available funding options.

“The industry has big challenges, with lots of elements that need to come together, and CSIRO is playing a key part in our research and development goals,” Dr Ooi said.

“We would wholeheartedly recommend the Innovate to Grow program to other companies in the industry, especially to help them gain direction for their business opportunities.”

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