Business Research Collaboration (BRC) Discovery Project Report


From May to July 2017, the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science undertook a research project on the drivers and barriers for Small to Medium Enterprises (SMEs) when collaborating with publicly funded research organisations (PFROs). The project aimed to deepen the department’s understanding of what motivates and/or stops Australian SMEs from engaging with PFROs and collaborating on joint projects, in order to inform and support future policy development.

The Department’s Innovation Lab—BizLab scaffolded the project with design thinking and agile project methodology. Design thinking methodology has three distinct phases with discovery being the first phase to build understanding of user needs.

Key elements of the project included a desktop research, interviews with 30 businesses and other stakeholders across Australia, and data analysis and reporting.

If you have any questions regarding the report, or require an accessible version of it, please contact the Collaboration Policy Team at:

 Key findings

  1. For many businesses interviewed, collaboration is integral to their commercial success. They collaborate with PFROs in a range of ways, including formal joint collaborations, fee for service research contracts or student placements.
  2. However, some businesses are not aware of the benefits of collaboration or the government support available. Others have difficulty finding research partners or lack the skills required to manage collaborative projects to successfully translate research results into commercial outcomes.
  3. PFROs are not always responsive to business needs and some lack business acumen.


  1. Quick wins—to be undertaken in the short term:
    • Share project findings across government
    • Establish a cross-government steering group to improve policy coordination
    • Review so it is more accessible for SMEs interested in collaboration
  2. Policy platforms—to be workshopped with stakeholders through a future ‘create phase’ design thinking project:
    • How can we improve marketing of government programs and raise awareness?
    • How can we better connect SMEs and PFROs?
    • How can we build SMEs’ innovation and management capability?
    • How can we support more SMEs to collaborate on shared problems?
  3. Undertaking a discovery project on women in business—to be considered as part of the department’s policy work on gender equity in innovation and science.
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