Case study from: Stimulating business investment in innovation
Cohda Wireless’s innovation journey demonstrates the need for tailored and holistic government assistance to help Australian businesses take an idea all the way through to commercialisation.
Cohda Wireless was established in 2004 as a spin-off from the University of South Australia. It developed technology to link city-wide Wi-Fi networks that it intended to use as a platform for public safety products (policing, fire and ambulance). The trend towards city-wide Wi-Fi was, however, surpassed by cellular networks, leaving Cohda Wireless searching for a new application for its technology.
The automotive industry proved an ideal fit for its technology with emerging Vehicle-to Vehicle (V2V), Vehicle-to-Infrastructure (V2I), and Vehicle-to-Pedestrian (V2P) technology, collectively known as V2X.
Its ‘big break’ came when it was included in a large trial funded by the German Government, which generated further opportunities to be involved in trials in Australia and abroad. It has been involved in trials supported by the Government of South Australia, including a test of on-the-ground connectivity between cars and roadside infrastructure in challenging locations.
In 2019, Cohda Wireless V2X stacks were used in 60 per cent of all connected vehicle trials worldwide. While the company is based in Adelaide, it operates sales offices in Detroit, Munich and Shanghai.
As an SME, Cohda Wireless was too small for some assistance, and too large for other assistance, without clear support in between. While support was ample when it was ‘on the cusp of growth’, Cohda Wireless found that as it scaled up, it was cut off from certain industry opportunities.
Cohda has also been involved with state-based government programs, including:
- a Victorian Small Business Innovation Research program, and
- the Future Mobility Lab Fund in South Australia.
While each touchpoint has been distinct in purpose, Cohda Wireless has had to (successfully) weave them together to create holistic support for its innovation at various stages in their development.
- SMEs may encounter a funding gap, where they become too large to be eligible for assistance programs, yet remain too small to have full market support. It is also important that SMEs can access support that does not require a significant upfront injection of capital, as this can prohibit their involvement.
- Varied government touchpoints can help support innovation to develop from infancy to successful market entry.