The impact of COVID-19 on many Australian businesses has been devastating. But there are some brilliant examples of Australian businesses pivoting to meet a new gap in the market. Some of this innovation was driven out of pure survival. Other businesses found they were at the right place, at the right time, to identify new opportunities.
In this series, we showcase three Australian businesses – Wash Wild, HowToo, Norris Industries– that successfully pivoted with our help during COVID-19.
Kick-starting new opportunities
Dr Megan Sebben manages our Kick-Start program. It helps start-ups and small businesses develop or test new products by matching them with our research expertise and capabilities.
“Start-ups and small businesses can sometimes have an advantage. Because of their size they can adapt more quickly to changing environments and capitalise on new markets,” Megan said.
“The impact from COVID-19 was unprecedented and drastically changed consumer behaviour overnight, unexpectedly creating new markets and opportunities. However, developing new opportunities doesn’t come without its risks.
“We understand the key contribution of start-ups and small to medium-sized businesses to our economy. Our focus is to reduce the research and development risk to enable businesses to thrive despite the significant challenges they may be facing whatever the crisis.”
One of CSIRO’s goals is to work with the broader innovation sector to double the number of SMEs engaging with publicly funded R&D by 2030.
At the start of the pandemic, Wash Wild founder Belinda Everingham saw a higher demand for cleaning products. She saw this as the perfect opportunity to offer consumers something that was still as effective but without the harsh chemicals.
And she wasn’t wrong.
“The pandemic saw an urgent need to keep surfaces as clean as possible. And cleaning products were more popular than ever,” Belinda said.
“But many of the products you find in the supermarkets use quite harsh chemicals, such as phenoxyethanol and synthetic fragrances. With more people using these products more often, we also saw people start to have more adverse skin reactions who were looking for alternative solutions.
Wash Wild products are gentle on hands but harsh on bacteria. They are made from a unique Australian oil blend that could still kill 99.9 per cent of commonly found bacteria.
“We knew a natural alternative needed to not only be gentler on the skin but to also do the job just as well as synthetic chemicals,” she said.
“Australian essential oils each have different properties against different pathogens, so we really needed to develop something that could still kill commonly found bacteria, while also smelling great and having no negative impact on people’s health and the environment.”
Bacteria face no chance with natural oils
Wash Wild worked with CSIRO through the Kick-Start Program to research and develop a unique formula using a range of native oils such as lemon myrtle, blue gum, Tasmanian pepper and lemon tea tree.
“This was tested against four key bacteria including Escherichia coli, Acinetobacter baumanii, Staphylococcus aureus and Saccharomyces cerevisiae,” Belinda said.
“CSIRO’s high calibre research expertise was invaluable and we finalised the range in September 2021. In March 2022, we launched this product in Woolworths.”
Since the project finished, Wash Wild has protected the name W4CR, which is the unique proprietary blend.
“This allows us to ship the blend on its own to offshore markets to create affordable products with the same natural and effective properties, but also the beautiful Australian scent,” Belinda said.
“Because of this success, we are also expanding the range to include personal care such as hand wash and body wash.”
How we can help you find opportunities to innovate your business
Let us help you uncover your potential and turn your business idea into reality to drive your business growth:
- Medium-sized businesses: The Australian Government’s Innovation Connections Program
- Start-ups and smaller businesses: CSIRO Kick-Start Program
- Businesses at the early stages of their R&D discovery: access our free 10-week training program Innovate to Grow