Growth

CSIRO “deep tech” spawning “awe-inspiring” startup opportunities, says new innovation chief

Kye White /

The capacity for invention at CSIRO is “awe-inspiring” according to the organisation’s new Executive Manager Innovation Liza Noonan.

Noonan, the former general manager of Springboard Enterprises, will lead the organisation’s ON accelerator program.

The program is part of the CSIRO’s push, under new chief executive Dr Larry Marshall, formerly the managing director of venture capital firm Southern Cross Ventures, to transform innovation investment into commercial results.

“That’s a major motivator of the accelerator,” Noonan says.

“It’s about that obsessive market focus. Great invention is great, but that’s only going to translate into innovation when some realises value from the invention or IP (intellectual property).”

More than 240 startup ideas were sourced from teams within the CSIRO and the nine deemed to be most commercially viable, with the potential to have the biggest economic, social, or environmental impact selected.

The final nine are a diverse range of high technology startups:

  • Anonalytix:  Privacy preserving analytics for unit-level data.
  • Sensei:  solid state sensor solutions for real-time continuous monitoring in extreme environments.
  • Cardiac Rehab:  Cardiac rehabilitation on the smartphone.
  • Graphene:  Single step ambient air synthesis from renewable biomass.
  • Sprayable Biodegradable Polymer Membrane Systems: revolutionising production agriculture.
  • Biora: terpene modifiers.
  • Ultra-Low Gluten Barley: all the health components of wholegrains while meeting WHO definitions for gluten free.
  • Vaximiser: protecting the world from the next pandemic.
  • Third Eye: network based location detection of Wi-Fi devices for improved safety in dangerous environments.

The CSIRO is funding the development of the startups over the duration of the program, which is due to finish up in December.

After that, “all options” are on the table. That could mean anything from the CSIRO taking an equity stake, or allowing the founders to seek external investment themselves.

“What’s unique about the CSIRO accelerator is that it is deep tech,” Noonan says.

“So there are challenges in terms of capital intensity, regulatory requirements, and complexity of the industries. But I think the payoff is higher, a lot higher.

“Some of these concepts have the potential to spur brand new industries and real job creation. That’s the massive opportunity we have.”

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Kye White

Kye began his career at a Fairfax daily on the North-West Coast of Tasmania. He has since taken his belongings, and keen interest in technology, to Melbourne. He has a bachelor of Arts majoring in Political Science from the University of Tasmania and a Graduate Diploma in Journalism from RMIT University.

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