Up to $200M is available from the CSIRO Innovation Fund to support the early stage commercialisation of innovations.
CSIRO Innovation Fund
The CSIRO Innovation Fund is a joint government–private sector fund that will help Australia’s home-grown innovations become successful businesses. This will create jobs and boost Australia’s productivity and exports.
The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) is our national science agency and for more than 100 years it has advanced Australia with a range of inventions, innovations and knowledge breakthroughs that have changed and improved the lives of people here and around the world. As our economy transitions from a mining investment boom we need to ensure our strengths in science are bolstered and ready for the future. Given its integral role in Australia’s research and science sectors, CSIRO is uniquely placed to lead this transition and deliver innovation across a broad range of national challenges and opportunities.
The new CSIRO Innovation Fund will support the commercialisation of early stage innovations from CSIRO, Australian universities and other Australian publicly funded research bodies.
The CSIRO Innovation Fund was launched in December 2016. It will invest in start-up and spin-off companies, existing SMEs engaged in translation of research, and company formation opportunities. This investment is designed to:
- Improve the translation of publicly funded research into commercial outcomes and stimulate innovation in Australia.
- Help successful businesses to grow – amplifying Australia’s productivity and exports, and generating jobs, particularly in priority sectors of the Australian economy.
- Boost the Australian innovation ecosystem as those individuals and companies supported by the Fund go on to further stimulate productivity and a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship.
The $200 million CSIRO Innovation Fund comprises a commitment of:
- $70 million in government funding
- $30 million revenue from CSIRO’s WLAN programme
- $100 million in private sector investment
Investment in the Fund will only be open to ‘wholesale investors’ (that is, professional investors and companies that manage investments in opportunities), not to retail or ‘mum and dad’ investors.
The CSIRO Innovation Fund will be managed as an early stage technology venture fund and as a separate legal entity to CSIRO. The Fund will, however, be managed by a subsidiary company of CSIRO which is ultimately accountable to the CSIRO Board and will also be subject to the regulatory processes that oversight venture funds, for example Innovation and Science Australia . The Fund will have its own governance and decision-making structure, including an investment committee that will include independent members.
Bill Bartee has been appointed leader of the CSIRO Innovation Fund Investment Managers team. A recruitment process for investment managers for the Innovation Fund is also underway, to form the Investment Managers team.
The CSIRO Innovation Fund will invest in start-up and spin off companies, and SMEs engaged in the translation of research generated in the Australian publicly funded research sector. The Fund will have a unique value proposition to investors and potential investment opportunities.
It is expected to be open to investment proposals from CSIRO, universities, other publicly funded research agencies and their partners including SMEs
An Australian publicly funded research agency is an organisation that is owned or controlled by the Commonwealth, or an Australian state or territory government, and primarily carrying out research and development activities; and it is:
- providing services, or making facilities available, in relation to science or technology
- training, or assisting in the training of, persons in the field of scientific or technological research, or
- collecting, interpreting or publishing information relating to science or technology.
It will not be open to applications from individuals without a relationship or partnership in the Australian publicly funded research sector.
How to get the CSIRO Innovation Fund
Applications for the CSIRO Innovation Fund will need to demonstrate:
- the requirement for funding to address the initial ‘Death Valley Curve’ in pre-seed and seed funding.
- how investment will bring forward the commercialisation of ‘deep technology’
- how it aligns to national industry priorities as currently articulated through the Industry Growth Centres.
- a commercial return
- a National benefit
- a focus of investment in Australia during their formative years.
How to get Main Sequence Funding?
Need for Funding
- The CSIRO Innovation Fund applicant has insufficient financing to fund the entire project.
- It would be unreasonable to expect that the applicant should obtain financing from alternative sources.
- The need for the new product, process or service is clearly defined.
- The type of customer is clearly defined.
- The size of the target market.
- The strength of the IP and how it will address the market opportunity.
- A clear, concise and compelling value proposition, i.e. why the customer wants the product, process or service.
A sound execution plan to capture the opportunity and manage the risks, for example
- a clear set of objectives
- a clearly defined path to market
- an understanding of the key structural or market challenges to be resolved
- a sound IP strategy
The CSIRO Innovation Fund applicant demonstrates an appropriate level of expertise in:
- commercialisation management
- project management
- business management
- the relevant sector/technology domain
The project will improve Australia’s participation and competitiveness in the global economy.
Significant spill-over benefits will accrue to Australia through the conduct of the project and/or commercialisation of its results, including:
- diffusion of knowledge and skills;
- diffusion of new products, processes or services; and/or
- increased collaboration between businesses and/or businesses and research institutions.
CSIRO Innovation Fund applicants should consider preparing a business plan against the merit criteria and should include clearly defined sections and headings including the following:
- Executive Summary – summary of who you are and the business opportunity, ie, what is your value proposition, what problem do you solve, for whom, and why your solution is better than alternatives.
- Team Overview – role and responsibilities of each member and how their expertise and experience is relevant to advancing the venture.
- Marketing Strategy – what is the market opportunity for your venture, who are your customers, do you have evidence from a lead customer/end user (e.g. a letter or email communication), how will you bring your product or service into the market (e.g., distribution channels, potential or existing partners).
- Competitive Advantage – who are your competitors and why your concept is sustainable.
- Key Resources and Development Plan – what resources do you require, what is the production process and plan to transform into end products.
- Financial Plan – this section should include detailed information about your startup costs and how you will meet them, as well as how you will make money. Types of financial tables to consider including: sales forecast, expenses budget, projected cash flow statement, profit and loss statement (P&L), projected balance sheet, and break-even analysis.
- Risk Management – outline the key challenges in the development and commercialization of this product, service, or process, what could go wrong and mitigating strategies.
- Action Plan –e., goals and key steps to undertake to achieve your business objectives.
As of 30 October 2017, the fund is now open.
Capital raising for the Fund has realised $232 million – exceeding its target for private sector investment by $32 million. The Fund has attracted investors including Hostplus and the University of Melbourne.
$132 million has been raised through private investment, $70 million from Government and $30 million from CSIRO.
CSIRO Chief Executive Larry Marshall, said: “Australia has outstanding science but translating that science into real products, real jobs or growing entire new industries remains a challenge.
CSIRO can be the bridge to help more great Australian inventions flourish and our Innovation Fund is delivering returns to invest in even more critical research for future breakthroughs.”
Main Sequence Ventures Partner Mike Zimmerman, said: “We are proud and excited to partner with investors that share our belief that significant global companies can come from the important work happening in Australia’s publicly funded research organisations.”
The Fund’s current portfolio includes satellite communication company Myriota, telehealth start up Coviu and Baraja who are developing technology for driverless cars.
Sam Sicilia, CIO of Hostplus said: “We believe Australia’s new competitive advantage is our ability to translate technology and innovation, as well as scientific discovery, into commercial products and services to export globally.
Our investment with Main Sequence Ventures allows us to see what is coming, not just from emerging startups but also reaching right back into the labs.
“With the world rapidly changing around us, and the competitive landscape shifting very swiftly, we look to invest in the industries of tomorrow and the way Main Sequence Ventures builds its portfolio gives us new insight,” he added.
The Fund was established as part of the National Innovation and Science Agenda to commercialise early stage innovations from CSIRO, universities and other publicly-funded research bodies.
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