View all news

Southern Cross University launches second Innovation Districts Covid-19 Challenge


Charles Wood
15 February 2021
Digital Enterprise Lab - Information Technology

Southern Cross University has launched the second round of an initiative focusing on economic recovery by inviting businesses to enter the Innovation Districts R&D Covid-19 Challenge.

New South Wales Minister for Jobs, Investment, Tourism and Western Sydney, Stuart Ayres, announced the state would invest a further $500,000 in seed funding to help get ideas out of the lab and into people’s hands.

“We’re leading the way in health and economic recovery and we’re looking to the future as we invest in technology to help in the battle against the impacts of COVID-19,” Mr Ayres said

“While the first of three challenges is now complete, the second is open for expressions of interest, and we encourage businesses to partner with CSIRO and local universities across the state for the chance to join the list of successful funding recipients.

“This is about unlocking innovation and laying down the pathway for NSW to lead Australia’s efforts in fighting the pandemic and reopening our country’s economy.”

The Covid-19 R&D Challenge, an initiative of the NSW Government’s: Boosting Business Innovation Program (BBIP), is designed to identify and support small to medium enterprises that have products or solutions that build economic resilience for NSW businesses to recover from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Announcing the call for Expressions of Interest, Southern Cross University’s Vice President (Engagement) Ben Roche acknowledged 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 SMEs to submit their product or solution that works to build the economic resilience of NSW businesses to recover from the impacts of the pandemic,” Mr Roche said 

“The Northern Rivers and Coffs Coast is renowned for the entrepreneurial spirit in which it responds to new economic opportunities that address collective challenges. The Covid-19 pandemic has presented that challenge, and we are enthusiastic about how our business community will respond to this most recent Innovation Challenge.”

Byron Bay based adventure company, “We Are Explorers” took out took top honours in Challenge #1, receiving a grant of $10,000 as the highest place submission for the Southern Cross University Innovation District.

“Being awarded the local R&D Challenge winner has allowed We Are Explorers to dive deep into research and user journey mapping that we wouldn’t have otherwise been able to explore,” said founder of We are Explorers, Henry Brydon.

“The support of the innovation grant through Southern Cross University is helping to make our vision a reality and allowing us to help Australians live in a more connected way to nature and each other which is critical working to reduce the impacts of COVID-19 on health and wellbeing.”

Businesses are asked to submit their EOI through the Southern Cross University website. This process will culminate in a brief pitch session with the Southern Cross University panel. Each of these pitches will be ranked with the top three submissions being recommended to NSW Treasury. The top ranked submission will receive a $10,000 grant as being the local innovation district winner. If you are not successful in this round, Southern Cross University will assess your businesses suitability for other accelerator or mentorship opportunities.

Southern Cross University is partnering with Sourdough Business Pathways to support the challenge in our Innovation District and provide eligible applicants with mentoring to support their challenge submissions.

Submit EOIs before 5pm 5th March 2021

Is my business eligible?

NSW businesses that are seeking to accelerate products to market that address COVID-19 are eligible to apply for challenge funds providing that the business:

  • has an ABN registered in NSW and is based in NSW
  • has fewer than 200 employees
  • has been in operation for at least 12 months, based on date of ABN registration
  • has at least $75,000 in sales revenue within the last 12 months
  • has a product or service that directly addresses the impact of COVID-19 ready for market
    within 12 months
  • is at least 75 per cent Australian-owned, and not more than 50 per cent owned by another business.


The following will not be considered eligible for funding: 

  • solutions that do not directly respond to the challenge statement for economic resilience 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.

The winning local business will go into the national competitive pool to win $250,000 for the first place submission.


Media contact: Sharlene King, media office at Southern Cross University, 0429 661 349 or [email protected]