Innovation Through Collaboration

Key points at a glance
  • PwC R&D Specialist, Shakeel Yusuf provides reasoning for thoughtful collaboration
  • Consider institutions as possible problem solving partners
  • Look at crowdsourcing your problem out for different solution approaches
  • Apply for grant funding to reduce the financial risk of starting a new project

When a business identifies a problem or new opportunity, there’s often a temptation to dive straight in and try to solve it themselves. After all, innovation is a hot topic in Australia right now and it’s a great way for businesses to stand out from the crowd and challenge their biggest competitors.

Before you jump in however, it’s worth considering the benefits of teaming up. When done properly, collaboration with others can add considerable value to your project and reduce the risk you face when taking it all on alone. Effective collaboration often leads to a better technical solution in less time and with greater longevity.

So how do you identify who to collaborate with? The most important thing to consider is who can add value to your project. Here are a couple of ideas to consider before taking on an innovation project:

Approach universities

Local universities are a great source of technical expertise. Most universities will have a commercial or business development contact who can link you with the right team. This is a great place to start, as they can assist with in finding the right fit from both a technical and cultural perspective.

If you’re based in Queensland, you may also be eligible for up to $50,000 per project under the Knowledge Transfer Partnership Grant. The grant is designed to support small businesses that bring on a university graduate to work on an innovation project.

If you’re not in Queensland, it’s still worth considering universities as a partner. Collaborating with registered research bodies (as most universities are) can also help you access other financial benefits such as the R&D Tax Incentive. I’ll touch more on that in a moment.

Crowdsource ideas

Another avenue for collaboration is crowdsourcing. Not to be confused with crowd funding, (where a prototype is made available for pre-sale) crowdsourcing can apply at the ideas level.

PwC offers a collaboration platform known as Open Innovation. Organisations can post a challenge, identifying the problem that they are trying to solve and the opportunity it presents to those involved. Applicants then pitch their ideas for a chance to be involved in the project.

Apply for grant funding and tax incentives

Another way to reduce the risk of starting an innovation project is to apply for any grants available, as well as keeping good documentation in order to claim eligible tax deductions. Here are two financial options available to businesses taking on innovation:

Innovation Connections: AusIndustry provides free ‘innovation facilitators’ to identify knowledge gaps that are preventing growth in your business. If you choose to act on their advice and collaborate with a research organisation, you can apply for an Innovation Connections Grant.

R&D Tax Incentive: The Australian Government provides generous tax incentives (up to 45% rebate of eligible costs) for businesses who take on the risk of innovation projects. This is not a grant, so any business can apply, provided you meet the eligibility criteria and keep records of your activities.

Before you get started

When teaming up with new people, it’s important to set ground rules and establish some structure to your collaboration up front. Agree on things like who will own the IP, what the incentive is for collaborators to be involved, the commercialisation rights, and what the scope of the project is. This will save headaches and misunderstandings down the line.

It’s also a good idea to seek impartial advice from a team of qualified experts such as PwC for larger projects, or Nifty Grants for smaller projects.

Services like Nifty Grants can help support your claims for grants and tax incentives, as well as help connect you with like minded groups within your industry through our broad network of clients.

If you would like to know more about how Nifty Grants can support your innovation goals, sign up for free online today at Nifty Grants.