Innovation Districts COVID-19 R&D Challenges

Grants of up to $250,000 to commercialise your product or service

COVID-19 has disrupted the world’s economies.

The NSW Government is seeking to identify businesses that intend to accelerate the commercialisation of research products that address the many disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. To achieve this, the government is partnering with innovation district partners in New South Wales, including ACU, to deliver three rounds of challenges.

These guidelines outline the information businesses need in order to apply for Challenge Three.

Innovation districts

Innovation districts are where research institutions and companies cluster and connect with start-ups, business incubators and accelerators and can network and accelerate commercialisation.

Twelve partner institutions (including ACU) have aligned with NSW Treasury, as part of the Boosting Business Innovation Program.

Innovation district partners will identify businesses with connections within their area, either through research relationships or physical location, that are potential products or services that address the challenge statement. This will be achieved through an initial Stage 1 – Expression of interest round with ACU. The three finalists from this round will then progress to Stage 2 and submit a final application to NSW Treasury for the funding grants.


The total funding pool available for each challenge is $500,000.


Grant Recipient

Funding Available

Highest ranked applicant


Second-highest ranked applicant


Third-highest ranked applicant


Highest ranked applicant in each Innovation District that is not one of the state-wide overall recipients


($10,000 for each of the 12 innovation districts)

Key dates 

Stage 1 – Expression of Interest is now closed

Stage 2 – Finalist applications due: 4pm AEDT 30 September 2021

Challenge statement

The theme for Innovation Districts Challenge Three is entrepreneurship.

NSW Government calls for R&D solutions that strengthen the entrepreneurship capability of the state for a post-COVID-19 economy.

Proposed projects might:

  • be scalable and research-based technology products or services
  • help sectors pivot to high growth technology solutions
  • strengthen Australia’s sovereign capability and local supply chains
  • implement a sustainable and novel solution to an area in need of reform, such as aged care, food security
  • address the workforce gap created by international closures (students, reduced migration)
  • champion Indigenous entrepreneurs.

Business eligibility criteria

To be eligible, businesses must have:

  • an ABN registered in NSW and be based in NSW
  • fewer than 200 employees
  • been trading for at least 12 months, based on date of ABN
  • at least $75,000 in sales revenue OR EXPENDITURE within the last 12 months or previous financial year
  • a product or service (which may still be in development) that it intends to market within 12 months that directly addresses the impact of COVID 19
  • 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 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.

How to enter

Stage 1: Expressions of interest

Each of the 12 innovation district partners will lead challenge activities in their respective innovation districts, in some cases, using an expression of interest process.

ACU is conducting an expression of interest process for eligible businesses. This will entail submitting an expression of interest through to ACU and conducting an eligibility check through NSW Treasury.

Should a business be ineligible, ACU may recommend other initiatives and the business may opt in to receive further information regarding the Innovation District COVID-19 R&D Challenges or other initiatives.

Stage 2: Application and assessment

ACU will nominate three finalists from the Stage 1: Expression of interest round. These finalists will then be invited to complete the stage two application form and provide the supporting material outlined below.

Finalist businesses will need to provide:

  • completed Stage Two Application form
  • budget and commercialisation plan
  • video presentation up to two minutes
  • declaration of conflicts of interest and description of any ethical or regulatory requirements to deliver the product or solution.

The 36 finalists, three from each of the 12 innovation district partners, will be competitively ranked by an independent panel against three criteria: impact, effectiveness, and delivery, tabled below. The top 15 ranked businesses of the 36 finalists will receive a grant to accelerate the commercialisation of their products.

Funding agreement

Successful applicants will be notified in writing by email and/or letter. Applicants may be required to keep the grant confidential for a period of time if an announcement will be made by the NSW Government.

Successful applicants will be required to enter a grant agreement with NSW Treasury, which will include a requirement that the applicant has and can provide a copy of all relevant insurances, such as public liability insurance or other insurance depending on the application.

As part of their obligations under the grant agreement, successful applicants will be required to submit reports at six-month and 12-month intervals, which will include progress against the commercialisation plan and the intended use of funds, following receipt of the funding to NSW Treasury as outlined in the grant agreement.

Additional information

Guidelines - Innovation Districts COVID-19 R&D Challenges

NSW Treasury information on Innovation Districts COVID-19 R&D Challenges

ACU staff contact

Mr Anthony Bayss

(02) 9701 4756


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