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Southern Cross University launches Innovation Districts Covid-19 Challenge


Charles Wood
7 October 2020
COVID challenge

Southern Cross University has announced the launch of the first of three Innovation Districts Research and Development (R&D) Covid-19 Challenges.

The COVID-19 R&D Challenge is a joint initiative with Southern Cross University and the NSW Government’s Boosting Business Innovation Program (BBIP).

It has been designed with the objective to identify and support small to medium enterprises that have a product or solution that directly addresses the impact of Covid-19 and intends to be in market within 12 months.

Announcing a call for Expressions of Interest for the first of three challenges, Ben Roche, Vice President (Engagement) at Southern Cross University noted the important role Universities play in nurturing the development of new solutions to pressing global challenges.  

“In partnership with the NSW Government, Southern Cross University welcomes the opportunity to facilitate more opportunities for local business and enterprise to apply their smarts to the health and wellbeing challenges triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Mr Roche said.  

“The Northern Rivers and Coffs Coast is renowned for its track record in developing saleable enterprises that respond to new economic opportunities that address collective challenges. The COVID-19 pandemic has amplified the need for such products and solutions, so we are enthusiastic about the response our Innovation District will receive.

“In exploring the health and wellbeing theme of the challenge, the first Innovation Challenge will focus on how can we grow our resilience to future shocks while positively growing the health and wellbeing of the people in our region. This may include businesses developing new products from existing production processes, new forms of service provision in a COVID safe world or new technologies or approaches that enhance our resilience to withstand future pandemics.”.

Minister for Skills and Tertiary Education Geoff Lee said in a press release announcing the launch, the Innovation Districts Challenges provided much needed support for universities during some of the toughest months.

“We know our universities are doing it tough, which is why we are continuing to support their world-leading research and collaborate with business to bring products to market,” Mr Lee said.

“This includes the funding to run these challenges and the opportunity for the state’s 11 universities, NSW CSIRO and businesses to take these developments to consumers.

Minister for Jobs, Investment, Tourism and Western Sydney Stuart Ayres said the theme of the challenges aligned with the NSW Government’s COVID-19 Recovery Plan.

“In January while the state was fighting bushfires, we’d never have expected that this pandemic was still to come,” Mr Ayres said.

“But where there is a challenge, there is opportunity for innovation, and the NSW Government is tapping into this creativity and expertise by investing $3 million to take products to market.

“Out of the first challenge we hope to see innovative and ways of addressing the impact of COVID-19, whether assisting in detection of the virus, improving patient care or solutions that help the people of NSW safely get back to activities they enjoy.”

The total funding pool available for each Challenge round is $500,000. Businesses are asked to submit their EOI through the Southern Cross University website, whereby an independent judging panel will nominate the top three eligible applicants in their area to be assessed and ranked for grant funding by NSW Treasury.

Southern Cross University will partner with Sourdough Business Pathways to ensure all eligible applicants are provided with mentoring in the delivery of their pitch.

Submit EOIs before 5pm Monday 2 November here:

Eligibility criteria for Challenge One.

To be eligible, businesses must have:

  • an ABN registered in NSW and is based in NSW
  • fewer than 200 employees
  • operated for at least 12 months, based on date of ABN registration
  • at least $75,000 in sales revenue within the last 12 months or previous financial year
  • a product or service (which may still be in development) that directly addresses the health and wellbeing impact of COVID-19 that it intends to market within 12 months
  • ownership that is at least 75 per cent Australian and is not more than 50 per cent owned by another business.

Eligible businesses must also provide:

  • an operating profit and loss statement for the last 12 months or previous financial year
  • brief profiles of key personnel such as CV or LinkedIn accounts
  • nomination of their primary innovation district partner.


The following will not be considered eligible for funding:

  • solutions that do not directly respond to the challenge statement for health and wellbeing solutions that address the impact of COVID-19
  • solutions designed to improve internal business processes
  • a Commonwealth, state or local government agency or body including government business enterprises.