CSIRO R&D program to assist businesses mitigate increased cyber security risk

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CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency, assists in combating the growing threat of cyber attacks by giving free research and development support to enterprises in the cyber security industry.

In a statement, CSIRO said small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) working on novel cyber security solutions could participate in its free, 10-week online Innovate to Grow program, which provides research and development expertise.

Upon completion of the program, participants may be able to get CSIRO support to connect to national research knowledge, as well as dollar-matched R&D funding.

Surya Nepal, CSIRO’s Data 61 Group Leader, stated that cyber security threats were an increasing issue around the world, affecting a wide range of industries.

“Cyber criminals are constantly finding new ways to carry our cyber-attacks, which can have devastating impacts for companies and consumers,” Nepal said.

According to the Australian Cyber Security Centre, a 13 per cent increase in cybercrime was reported in the 2020-21 fiscal year.

CSIRO’s SME Connect Deputy Director George Feast said innovative solutions are necessary to keep ahead of these.

“Much of this can be driven by SMEs – who make up 99.8 per cent of all businesses in Australia – developing new cyber products and services powered by R&D. However, R&D can be an expensive undertaking for businesses and risky for those without the right guidance and support,” Feast added.

Feast stated that CSIRO invites participants to come up with a specific cyber security business idea that they’d like to explore through its Innovate to Grow program. 

“Over 10 weeks we’ll step businesses through how to refine their idea, to understand its research viability, and begin engaging a university or research institution to deliver a collaborative R&D project,” Feast said.

According to a CSIRO study published last year, despite the importance of collaboration in driving good R&D outcomes, less than 15 per cent of Australian businesses engage universities or research institutes for their innovation operations.

Businesses will also be exposed to industry knowledge, hear from innovation and industry experts, and work with an R&D mentor, as well as draw into CSIRO’s own cyber security expertise through Data61, CSIRO’s data and digital speciality arm.

Rezilens Operations Project Manager Corey Fraser recently completed the Innovate to Grow: Cyber Security program, which helps make enterprise-level cybersecurity affordable and accessible to Australian SMEs.

“This was essentially our first opportunity to pursue formal R&D, as we’re still fairly young – just under two years in operation. What was really appealing for us through this program was the exposure to academics and NGOs in the security space, along with the associated benefit of learning from their industry expertise. And finding out about how we could access potential funding opportunities,” Fraser said.

Fraser suggests the initiative to other start-ups that lack the funds and time to undertake these kinds of operations. According to Fraser, the fact that the experience was coordinated by CSIRO greatly improved the program’s structure and uniformity, and the lack of associated fees was a significant plus as well.

Eligible organisations can be actively involved in cyber security or work in other industries that provide online solutions to their consumers, such as agriculture and health care, and aim to increase the cyber security part of their offerings.

CSIRO’s Innovate to Grow: Cyber Security program is funded by the Australian Government Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources through the Cyber Security Skills Partnership Innovation Fund.


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