The Western Australian Government today launched a new research scheme to help local companies in the commercial development of innovative products and processes.
Deputy Premier Ian Taylor said the move was necessary not only to encourage industry to invest more in research and development, but to help them gain greater access to the country's main source of R and D funds - the Federal Government.
The new State Government program, to be run by the Department for State Development, will be known as the WA Advantage Industrial Research and Development Support Scheme (WAAIRDS)
It will replace the earlier WARD - WA Research and Development - Scheme and offer both financial support for smaller R and D programs, as well as financial assistance to prepare improved applications for much larger federal grants.
Mr Taylor said the new R and D assistance scheme was primarily designed to meet the demand for grants below the level at which the Federal Government usually became involved.
"There are many extremely worthwhile research projects being conducted by smaller companies which do not need a big injection of funds, yet cannot continue without some outside help," he said.
"In many cases only a few thousand dollars are needed. But the amount is too small for the Commonwealth assessors to spend time considering.
"This is the area where I believe the State Government could step in and play a most useful part. Under the new WAAIRDS scheme, local companies will be able to apply for dollar-for-dollar assistance up to $25,000.
"Most federal grants begin at the level of a total project cost of $50,000."
Mr Taylor said the new scheme would also be used to help Western Australian companies access federal grants by providing assistance in improving the quality of applications.
"Last year the Federal Government provided $40 million in grants to back industrial research, but only one in five of the companies which sought access actually received financial help," he said.
"What is causing the high rejection rate is not that so many projects are unworthy, but that it is becoming such a major task providing the information needed to complete a satisfactory application."
Mr Taylor said that as a general rule it was now necessary for a company to spend 10 per cent of the money it was requesting on actually preparing an application for the grant.
"That means if you are asking the Commonwealth for $200,000, you are going to have to invest $20,000 up front just to make sure your application contains sufficient detail on such matters as market analysis, intellectual property, and potential collaborators," he said.
"But even when you have all that detail, there is no guarantee you will actually be successful in winning a grant.
"Applications for Commonwealth grants have become such a high-risk investment that companies are no longer making the attempt to apply.
"Under our new WAAIRDS scheme, we will be trying to reduce that risk by contributing up to $25,000 to the cost of a company's application."