Funding to target ‘dead zone’

12-Sep-2019

The Menzies Foundation believes philanthropy can play a unique role in sparking discovery and innovation in Australia. We are passionate about investing in our country’s future science leaders and giving them the runway to ensure that their research has an impact in the world. We look forward to sharing their entrepreneurial journey.

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Exclusively published through The Australian, reported by David Swan 

Australian scientists have been awarded over a quarter of a million dollars to commercialise their research, as part of a budding partnership between CSIRO and the Menzies Foundation designed to close a nationwide funding gap.

Announced at a gala awards event on Wednesday night, three local science entrepreneurs will each receive $90,000 in a bid to make their deep-tech work a successful commercial business.

Recipients of the 2019 Menzies Science Entrepreneurship Fellowship include global shrimp expert Dr Melony Sellars, leading optics and telecommunications expert Dr Simon Gross and materials expert Dr Jinghua Fang.

David Burt, the manager of CSIRO's ON accelerator program, told The Australian the partnership was focused on targeting the 'dead zone' between scientific research and the investment community.

"We're allocating funding to these founders to help them take the jump from science into entrepreneurship," he said. "I can't emphasise enough how unique this is, but we hope it doesn't stay unique."

Mr Burt said the funding is untied, meaning the scientists don't have to specify what they'll be spending the money on.

"The only requirement is that they spend it on commercialising their venture," he said. "We'll be coaching them intensively over the next 12 months so we'll have great visibility over what they're doing.

"From the investment side, this means they won't have to sacrifice equity. With these sorts of deep tech ventures, if you try and take equity too early you kill the opportunity."

Menzies Foundation CEO Liz Gillies said the scientists were picked given their entrepreneurial capacity and the potential of their ideas.

"For whatever reason the system doesn't provide an appropriate runway for people like these, and they've dedicated their lives to solving important problems for this country," she said. "We want them to deliver real impact, and we're just delighted to have a partner like CSIRO to help us explore this space and help build opportunities."

Dr Fang, a recipient and founder at AloxiTec, said the recognition was a great honour.

“For me, winning this fellowship is about recognising the hard work and how being passionate about what you do leads to success and provides opportunities,” she said. “I'm currently a one-person team and this fellowship will open so many doors for me. I plan to use the opportunity to further develop my novel packaging product to minimise food waste in Australia by helping to extend the shelf life and improve the freshness of produce without refrigeration and chemical contamination. I hope my story will inspire other women to pursue their business dreams.”

CSIRO on Wednesday night also announced the recipients of its Impact awards, designed to recognise successful alumni of the ON accelerator program.

This year's winners include Emesent, which have created autonomy technology for industrial drones; Genics, a new pest detection system that cuts costs and time delays for Aussie prawn farmers; and Diffuse Energy which have developed new tech that is pioneering small-scale wind generation.