Australia’s national science accelerator is here - so get ON board!

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When you think of science researchers you might picture men and women standing in a lab, looking dutifully at a laptop screen or pouring different coloured liquid into test tubes.

We adore science (obviously), and don’t get us wrong, we love beakers and crisp white lab-coats. But what we love even more is turning big ideas into big realities – realities that could change the way we live or address some of the biggest challenges of today – and now we want you to help us.

Our fair land has no shortage of gifted sci-tech researchers that are full of amazing ideas and projects. But it can be a real challenge to get those ideas out of the lab and into the market, and unfortunately we’ve got the stats to back that up. Australia currently ranks last out of 33 OECD countries (FYI that’s the big group of countries that work together to stimulate economic progress and world trade) in research to business collaboration performance– the kind of collaboration that leads to better economic productivity and profitability for companies.

To us, that’s a pretty clear sign that we need to pick up the pace.

Enter the ON accelerator

Our very own accelerator, ON, is bringing together the best and brightest research minds in a partnership that will see universities fast-track their science and technology innovation.

“There are many digital accelerators in Australia, but science accelerators are rare anywhere. ON brings to bear CSIRO’s strength as a national, mission-directed agency to bridge the gap between industry and research and really catalyse innovation,” says our Chief Executive, Larry Marshall.

“There is no doubt Australia has an enviable pipeline of world-class research, but we can achieve more if we work together to fast-track more inventions from lab-bench to reality.

“That’s the role of ON. More than just commercial outcomes, ON is about connecting our university partners to Australia’s challenges to identify the real-world applications for their science to deliver positive social, economic and environmental impact for Australia.”

Under our 12 week intensive program, researchers from each university will gain access to a national network of mentors from private industry and the investment community. But most importantly, there will be commercial experts on hand to help them build the skills required to turn their amazing ideas into commercially viable outcomes.

Bring it ON

We’ve already been the proud (metaphorical) parents of amazing ON graduates and their innovations. These include the ultra-low gluten barley Kebari (recently commercialised with a German beer company); Cardihab, the Smartphone app that supports cardiac rehabilitation in any location and Hovermap, an intelligent software system for unmanned aerial vehicle’s that allows them to access and monitor critical but dangerous national infrastructure. We’ve got support from over a dozen major universities in Australia that have joined the program, with one of the first being Macquarie University.

Macquarie University Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research Performance and Innovation), Professor Peter Nelson said the ON experience is one of significant benefit, and that they are proud to continue their involvement as a partner.

“The ON accelerator is an invaluable tool to get our teams out of their comfort zone, into the market and testing hypothesises and assumptions around their research and product,” says Professor Nelson.

“It’s one thing to incubate great ideas, it’s entirely another to connect those ideas with customers, suppliers and partners and establish the venture capital blocks to build opportunity and an outcome.”

Get ON board

The ON accelerator is open to employees of Australia’s publicly funded research agencies (PFRAs), this can include our own wonderful staff or researchers at Australian universities as well!

Your team can also bring Commercialisation Managers, IP Managers, PhD candidates or marketing specialists to participate, we just need at least one full-time employee from an eligible PFRA.

So, you think you’ve got what it takes to impress us with your big idea? Get ON it now! Apply for the accelerator here.


  1. Since you asked . . . .
    . . . . Australia currently ranks last out of 33 OECD countries . . .
    1. The difference between (i) Australia scientific publication standing (~6th in the OECD if I remember correctly) and (ii) Australia university-industry collaboration (~33/33 OECD) is suggestive of a structural problem.
    2. From direct experience on both academia and industry side, Universities have little incentive to enter into collaborations with industry. They feel secure in remaining dependent on government grant funding. Commercialisation is simply a side issue – Something they have to do because government has instructed them to do so, if they are to get government grants with attached IP rights. Commericalisation is simply not core to their business model (training students and doing research).
    3. However, given that accepting government grants requires the University to look after the IP, well . . . Board of Governors say – OK we will set up a Commercialisation Office; but don’t expect us to put our cash in there – that would be contrary to our fiduciary duty to remain focused on training and research. We will set up the Commercialisation Office but instruct them that they have to find their own operating budget from commercialising University’s IP and access to facilities.
    4. So that what we have. The commercialisation office can’t even fund a provisional patent application unless they have an commercial partner in the wings. Good people in university commercialisation offices find themselves doing things no more challenging than the commercially simple task of selling access rights to their IP and/or facilities.
    5. And while there may be talented people in the commercialisation office, their creative capacity is generally constrained because they must not venturing too far out from what is prescribed by the (National) commercialisation strategy – (see NHMRC commercialisation guidelines. Note, how they have changed from Wills strategic review ~Yr 2000. About Yr 2000 everything was promised, include spinouts, JVs etc, to get Federal Government to commit to ramping up NHMRC funding. Government bought the argument: NHMRC funding increased ~400% over next 10 years. But did we see the virtuous cycle? “In your dreams!” I believe in ‘strategy thinkers’ call this a ‘ruse’).
    6. Maybe, at last, we are seeing changes happen that actually can make a difference. The Turnbull Government’s change to capital gains tax (early stage innovation companies) recognises a need to directly addresses the core problem – not taxing the rapidly growing (innovative) company and risk-taking investors backing it. Potentially much more effective than the Will virtuous cycle: Recognise that passionate individuals can be more effective in bringing the benefits of innovation to society than institutions.
    7. And finally, closing the circle with the ON accelerator, I am really hopeful that the ESIC legislation will start to change the institution focused culture and allow passionate innovators the space and support to work with their innovations. Let them get on with generating the proof-of-principle data needed, and jumping all the other hurdles they will find in their way – help them make an enduring difference to society.

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