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MAY 2010

THE Australian Institute for Commercialisation (AIC) has urged small businesses to collaborate with the research sector, citing success in such ventures over the last four years in Queensland.

Following the launch of the Australian Innovation Festival, AIC CEO Rowan Gilmore says small businesses need to realise that the risks of research collaborations are not as ‘fearsome’ as they seem.

“If you look at the history of where new profits came from, it’s from new products, and working with researchers is a great way to find new ideas, to find new customers in markets they might not have thought of before,” he says.

“It can be difficult because businesses might not have had collaborations with universities before, they might be scared of the university publicising proprietary information, but all of those things are not as fearsome as some small businesses may fear.

“In Queensland over the last four years we’ve done about 150 collaborations between businesses and research institutes, so that is about 40 per year.”

But Gilmore’s view is that researchers shouldn’t need to establish themselves in start-up businesses and that SMEs could play a vital role in collaborative efforts.

“It’s a good idea for a company without a new product to work with the universities in research, rather than researchers having to make their own start-ups,” he says.

“We’ve worked in a number of sectors – it’s easier to conceive innovation with firms that manufacture products, and also in IT, clean energy, health, marine, agriculture, as well as any sector where companies might not be aware of the value they might be able to reap from the research sector.

“We see collaboration as an important business strategy and we’ve been amazed at how many firms, when exposed to new value chains, just how many benefits they’ve reaped.”

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