CSIRO launches cyber security and digital tech programs for SMEs

Australia’s national science research agency, the CSIRO, has launched a free 10-week online program aimed at helping small and medium enterprises (SMEs) enhance their research and development (R&D) in cybersecurity and digital technologies.

The ‘Innovate to Grow’ program will connect businesses working on solutions in cyber and digital tech with knowledge, resources and mentors to advance their project or ideas, the agency said.

Eligible participants, after completing the program, may be able to access continued support through the CSIRO, being connected to national research expertise and/or dollar-matched R&D funding to keep moving their ideas forward.

Commenting on the launch of the program, CSIRO’s Data61 Research Director for Software and Computational Systems, Dr Liming Zhu, said that its start “could not be more timely”, given the rise of generative artificial intelligence (AI) and large language models like ChatGPT rapidly transforming the digital and cyber innovation landscape.

“Whether they’re creating knowledge-intensive products or seeking to add innovative features to interact with customers, companies can tap into new growth opportunities thanks to the increasing power of generative AI,” he said.

At the same time, Zhu warned that the rapid development and escalation of these applications will come with increased cyber risks and risks in digital trust, and that preparation is the key to mitigating these risks.

“This is a new territory, which is still evolving,” Zhu said.

“Our aim with programs like this is to assist companies who are building solutions to these problems.”

Michelle Armistead, CSIRO’s Innovate to Grow program coordinator, also urged Australian SMEs to consider taking the opportunity to connect with like-minded mentors and companies to learn and expand.

“We know the critical importance Australia’s SMEs have in the growth and resilience of our economy, and likewise the large role they will play in growing these emerging industries of cyber and digital tech,” Armistead said.

“One of the most valuable pieces of feedback we’ve had from participants in our previous cohorts is the deep value they have gained in working through the self-paced deliverables while connecting with our expert advisors,” she added.

The program is funded by the Australian Government Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources through the Cyber Security Skills Partnership Innovation Fund.

Eligible companies can work directly in cybersecurity, digital technologies or adjacent industries, with a desire to improve the cybersecurity and digital technologies aspect of their offering.