CSIRO launches R&D program to help businesses mitigate cyber security risk

The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) will offer free research and development (R&D) support to small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) operating in the cyber security space.

Under the new program, around 20 SMEs will be offered to join the 10-week, free and online Innovate to Grow program, aimed to support their ideas with research and development expertise. Upon completion of the program, the select businesses will be also offered support through CSIRO to connect to research expertise nationally, along with dollar-matched R&D funding, the agency said.

According to CSIRO’s SME Connect deputy director, George Feast, new solutions were required to help counteract growing cybercrime and much of this could be driven by the SME sector, which make up the majority of such businesses in Australia.

However, developing new cyber products and services as well as R&D is often too expensive and risky to undertake by businesses of that size.

“Through our Innovate to Grow program, we invite participants to come with a specific cyber security commercial idea they would like to explore,” Feast said.

“Over 10 weeks we will step businesses through how to refine their idea, to understand its research viability, and begin engaging a university or research institution to deliver a collaborative R&D project.”

According to CSIRO’s findings, less than 15% of Australian businesses last year engaged universities or research institutions for their innovation activities and the goal was to “up that percentage”.

Under its new program, CSIRO said business would tap into the agency’s cyber security expertise through Data61, CSIRO’s data and digital specialist arm, and would be exposed to industry knowledge, “hear from innovation and industry experts, and work with an R&D mentor”.

Rezilens, one of the participants whose company makes enterprise-level cybersecurity for Australian SMEs, said the CSIRO program was particularly recommended for other start-ups who lack the capital and time “to pursue these sorts of activities”.

The agency said that other eligible companies can be operating directly in cyber security or other industries that offered online solutions to their customers, such as agriculture and health, wanting to improve the cyber security aspect of their offering.

The program will commence in December and will be funded by the Australian Government Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources through the Cyber Security Skills Partnership Innovation Fund.