On Tuesday 1st June, the New South Wales Government announced that it will offer small and medium-sized businesses up to $24 million worth of grants over two years for innovation research program and to also commercialize solutions for the government’s agencies.

The program billed the Small Business Innovation Research Program, is a scheme designed to encourage small and medium-sized businesses to solve government initiatives related to five of the state’s key initiatives.

The innovation research program was the first priority action recommendation tabled in the Turning Ideas into Jobs Accelerating Research & Development in NSW Action Plan which was launched by NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian in January 2021. 

The Action Plan emphasises the growing need to be proactive in supporting and attracting new businesses. Especially in future industries that will sustain economic growth, productivity and employment.

The SBIR program will provide competitive grants for SMEs to find and commercialise innovative solutions to NSW Government agencies for five well-defined problems.

Eligible businesses will be given a total of $24 million in grants over two years to commercialise innovative solutions to state issues related to connectivity, hyperlocal navigation, the state’s koala count, personal protective equipment (PPE) and water purification. 

The SBIR program has three phases. The first centres around a feasibility study, which sees an SME’s proposal submission undergo a funded, three-month assessment, supported by $100,000 in government funds. 

Businesses that successfully make it past the feasibility phase are then invited to apply for the proof-of-concept phase, where applications are again assessed before successful applicants afforded funding of up to $1 million to develop a proof of concept over 15 months. 

The third and final phase involves the government agencies assessing successful concepts and consider purchasing successful solutions. The Berejiklian government has stated that “not all SME applications will proceed through all phases”. 

The NSW State Government encourages business leaders to apply for the grant which, for those successful, will benefit both the state and its businesses that will continue to profit off the commercial solutions that emerge as a result of the program. 

“The program will tackle important challenges including assisting vision-impaired customers navigate the public transport network, increasing the resilience of regional and remote communications networks, quantifying the number and extent of koalas in NSW, reducing contamination in wastewater and reducing PPE waste in the health system,” said the NSW Secretary to the Premier Gabrielle Upton.

“The SBIR program will not only support NSW SMEs to develop innovative solutions to government challenges, but the challenges have been specifically chosen to ensure that the successful SMEs can also sell their solutions to other customers in local and international markets.”

The Upcoming NSW State Budget

NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet announced that the 2021–22 NSW budget will be handed down this year on Tuesday, 22 June 2021.

This date is a return to the usual budget release date, after it was deferred last year until November due to the impacts of the ongoing covid-19 pandemic.

The government is forecasting a positive outlook for the NSW economy, which is welcome news compared to what the state experienced this time last year.

“Twelve months ago, we were taking the first tentative steps out of lockdown and at the same time facing forecasts by the Commonwealth of unemployment as high as 15 percent and predictions of economic Armageddon,” said the Treasurer.

“The NSW government responded with an unparalleled package of measures including tax relief worth billions, grants of up to $10,000 to assist small businesses and a focus on continued infrastructure investment and jobs creation.”

The current NSW unemployment rate stands at 5.4 percent, down from the peak 7.2 percent last year, as an excess 270,000 workers returned to jobs.

Since the covid-19 pandemic started, the NSW government committed $29 billion towards health, economic and social support measures.

The state government plans to continue to invest in supporting people and creating jobs through its $107 billion infrastructure program.

In an encouraging sign of positivity, a recent NAB business survey recorded its highest business confidence reading ever in the history of New South Wales.

N