This was one of the core messages of CSIRO science director and deputy director of manufacturing Dr Cathy Foley, who spoke to Defence Connect last week.
Dr Foley said that SMEs who were looking to embrace increasingly plentiful opportunities in working with the CSIRO and other academic foundations needed to change their tactical outlook urgently.
"Yes, they’re commercial, but how can they better connect with the type of people they’d be working with, like academics?” said Dr. Foley. “Look, particularly in the manufacturing area in CSIRO our aim is not to have glory amongst us."
She said the CSIRO’s drive to create next-generation technologies or applications to make a difference was just one part of its brief.
"The more important part, particularly in manufacturing, is looking at how we can make sure that the SMEs – which are 97 per cent of the companies in Australia – are able to be competitive so that they can go and bid for tenders with the majors and be able to then be part of the supply chains," she emphasised. "Not just locally, but globally."
Dr Foley listed the fact that SMEs could have access to findings without actually having to employ research staff as a major benefit around connecting with the innovation industry in Australia – universities and government labs like CSIRO.
She said that SMEs, mainly those businesses who managed to number researchers and scientists as part of their enterprise platforms, would currently find the most compelling opportunities within this intersection of interests.
"I really encourage that, but the thing is you also have to have the infrastructure around it in order to make the most out of them," Dr Foley added. "In some cases, it might be possible because it might be developing new electronics or something like that, or doing integration, which is terribly important as well, and testing and all that."
"[But] if you’re looking at trying to do some of the research that’s needed to be able to create the product, the fact that they can partner with CSIRO or a university partner [is crucial], but talking from CSIRO's perspective, our goal is for them to be successful."