Did you know small to medium sized businesses (SMEs) play a huge role in the Australian economy? And we're heavily invested in helping SMEs grow.
Meet George and Megan. Two scientists who found their goldilocks jobs helping small and medium enterprises (SMEs) grow! Find out how Megan and George connect businesses with researchers and why they love doing it.
Meet Megan Sebben
Megan is the Program Manager of CSIRO Kick-Start. With a science background and a love for connecting people, Megan thrives on helping Australian start-ups tackle their challenges.
How did you go from being a scientist to working in the SME space?
After completing my PhD in groundwater hydrology, I started working in the private sector as an environmental consultant. I soon realised that role wasn’t for me. A job came up at CSIRO in the STEM Professionals in Schools program, where I was already a volunteer, so it seemed like a great fit. After a couple of years in Education, I was really missing my connection back to the research world. So, I joined SME Connect, i.e., my ‘goldilocks’ job! I now manage the CSIRO Kick-Start program. This leverages my previous experiences as a researcher and consultant.
What do you love about working with small and medium enterprises?
I work primarily with start-ups. So, I feel like I’m really engaging at the forefront of creativity and innovation – it’s exciting and novel! They are usually tackling new challenges or solving a problem that’s relevant to a lot of people. It might not always be the real hard-core science that we’re familiar with, but it can often be rapidly translated into something that’s usable.
So, I get a lot of joy out of seeing the products that we’ve been part of on a shelf, on TV or driving past the billboard at the airport. It’s very ‘real-world’ and tangible.
What’s your favourite thing about start-ups?
The founders! The diversity of the founders and their passion for the work is amazing. Some are former academics that have spun out of a university. Others are accidental entrepreneurs addressing a problem they initially thought was specific to them but then realised a lot of people face similar challenges.
Meet George Feast
George is the Deputy Director of SME Connect. A self-proclaimed ‘science-geek’, George loves making connections between researchers and SMEs. He’s marched in CSIRO colours at the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras and says our diversity is a deciding factor for people who work with us.
How did you get into this work?
I have a PhD in organic chemistry and joined CSIRO 11 years ago as a post doc working on a drug discovery project.
I ended up going on secondment at a small business that was using one our programs – Innovation Connection. There I experienced first-hand the drivers and priorities that small businesses deal with. I then got the opportunity to join the SME Connect team to look at how we were going to continue to make those industry connections. To be part of the process of connecting people and industries, is what I like best.
What do you love about small and medium enterprises?
SMEs and start-ups are agile and able to implement research and development (R&D) outcomes swiftly. That means the new or improved products and services we help to create get to market really fast. We often see SMEs we’ve worked with talk about their tech in news articles, on LinkedIn or even see their products in supermarkets!
I also really like speaking with founders or SME owners as they are always passionate about their business and idea. Their enthusiasm is infectious and I get to release my inner ‘science geek’ in those conversations.
Why is the SME space important?
Some people think SMEs take up a lot of time, are difficult to work with or don’t generate a lot of income. But that’s not true. When you encourage those smaller projects to happen, through funding programs and connections, you start a relationship that builds trust.
We’re helping SMEs grow. Want to know how we can help you?
Through research and development, we give them the support and encouragement they need to grow and innovate. And we think that strengthening the collaboration between industry and the research sector is a key to longevity and success. We’re working hard on this.