Innovation Districts Challenges

Up to $250,000 in commercialisation funding on offer

The NSW Government is seeking to identify and support businesses that intend to accelerate the commercialisation of research-based products and services that address the impact of COVID-19. To achieve this, the government is partnering with Innovation District partners in New South Wales, including the University of Newcastle, to deliver a series of three challenges.

Innovation districts

Innovation districts are where research institutions and businesses cluster and connect to network and accelerate commercialisation.

Twelve research institutions across NSW have partnered with Investment NSW to identify businesses who are developing products or services that address the challenge statement.

The University of Newcastle is seeking expressions of interest from businesses located within the Hunter, Central Coast, and Mid-Coast regions of NSW or businesses located elsewhere in NSW that have an emerging or existing research relationship with the University of Newcastle.

An eligible business will:

  • Stage One - Submit an Expression of Interest with the University of Newcastle from which the top three applications will be identified and nominated to progress to Stage Two.
  • Stage Two -  Each of the top three Stage One applicants from each of the 12 innovation districts across NSW (36 in total) will be invited to submit an application directly to Investment NSW for evaluation to determine the successful grant recipients.

Funding opportunities

The total Stage Two funding for each Challenge is $500,000 comprising:

  • The highest-ranked applicant - $250,000
  • Second-highest ranked applicant - $100,000
  • Third-highest ranked applicant - $30,000
  • The highest-ranked applicant in each Innovation District that is not one of the statewide overall recipients - $10,000 ($120,000)

Funding may be used for business activities that enable the commercialisation of a product or service which may still be in development that directly addresses the Challenge Statement and that is intended to enter the market within 12 months.

Key dates

Stage 1 - Expression of Interest closes: 4 PM AEST, Thursday 2 September 2021

Stage 2 – Top 3 Finalist Applications due: 4 PM AEST, Thursday 30 September 2021

Challenge Three is now open

Challenge Statement

NSW Government calls for R&D solutions that strengthen the entrepreneurship capability of the State for a post-COVID-19 economy.

Proposed projects might:

  • Be scalable and research-based technology products or services
  • Help sectors pivot to high growth technology solutions
  • Strengthen Australia’s sovereign capability and local supply chains
  • Implement a sustainable and novel solution to an area in need of reform, such as aged care, food security
  • Address the workforce gap created by international closures (students, reduced migration)
  • Champion Indigenous entrepreneurs

Eligibility criteria

To be eligible, businesses must have:

  • an ABN registered in NSW and is based in NSW
  • fewer than 200 employees
  • operated for at least 12 months, based on the date of ABN registration
  • at least $75,000 in sales revenue or operating expenditure within the last 12 months or previous financial year
  • a product or service (which may still be in development) that directly addresses the impact of COVID-19 that it intends to market within 12 months
  • ownership that is at least 75 per cent Australian and is not more than 50 per cent owned by another business.

Eligible businesses must also provide:

  • an operating profit and loss statement for the last 12 months or previous financial year
  • brief profiles of key personnel such as CV or LinkedIn accounts
  • the nomination of their primary innovation district partner.

The following will not be considered eligible for funding:

  • solutions that do not directly respond to the challenge statement for solutions that address the impact of COVID-19
  • solutions designed to improve internal business processes
  • a Commonwealth, state, or local government agency or body including government business enterprises.

How to enter

Stage One: Expressions of interest

Eligible businesses will be required to:

Step 1. Undertake an eligibility check through NSW Treasury by 4 PM AEST Thursday 2 September 2021.

Step 2. Submit an Expression of Interest (EOI) through the University of Newcastle by 4 PM AEST Thursday 2 September 2021.

Should a business be ineligible, the University of Newcastle may recommend other commercialisation support initiatives.

Make an EOI Innovation Districts Challenge Three

Stage Two: Application and assessment

The University of Newcastle will facilitate an evaluation panel to select three finalists from the Stage One Expression of Interest. These three finalists will then be invited to complete the Stage Two Application and will need to provide:

  • completed Stage Two Application form;
  • budget and commercialisation plan;
  • video presentation up to two minutes; and
  • declaration of conflicts of interest and description of any ethical or regulatory requirements to deliver the product or solution.

The 36 finalists, three from each of the 12 innovation district partners across NSW, will then be competitively ranked by an independent panel facilitated by Investment NSW to determine the top 15 ranked businesses of the 36 finalists who will receive a grant to accelerate the commercialisation of their product or service.

Funding agreement

Successful applicants will be notified in writing by email and/or letter. Applicants may be required to keep the grant confidential for a period of time if an announcement will be made by the NSW Government.

Successful applicants will be required to enter a grant agreement with Investment NSW which will include a requirement that the applicant has and can provide a copy of all relevant insurances, such as public liability insurance or other insurance depending on the application.

As part of their obligations under the grant agreement, successful applicants will be required to submit reports at six-month and 12-month intervals, which will include progress against the commercialisation plan and the intended use of funds, following receipt of the funding to Investment NSW as outlined in the grant agreement.

Additional information

Guidelines - Innovation Districts COVID-19 R&D Challenges

NSW Government information on Innovation Districts COVID-19 R&D Challenges

Stage 1 Expression of Interest questions

University of Newcastle staff contact – Mrs. Siobhan Curran, or (02) 4921 6951.

The University of Newcastle acknowledges the traditional custodians of the lands within our footprint areas: Awabakal, Darkinjung, Biripai, Worimi, Wonnarua, and Eora Nations. We also pay respect to the wisdom of our Elders past and present.