As the focus of COVID-19 shifts to one of economic recovery, a new program by CSIRO is helping SMEs adopt world-class technology, digitally transform and drive Australia’s recovery from the pandemic.

The Early Adopter Program (EAP) aims to accelerate technology adoption among SMEs in a range of industries, including manufacturing, supply chain, mining, energy and construction. The program provides technologies that are easily adoptable, translatable and reasonably priced to deliver fast ROI.

The first of this tech being made available to SMEs is Wildcat. Developed by CSIRO’s Data61, the technology enables ground robots and drones to autonomously map and navigate complex environments, such as mines. Wildcat can help boost safety and productivity for companies in mining, agriculture and defence that rely on robots to navigate complex and unstructured environments where there are no GPS systems or pre-existing maps. It is being trialled by commercial partners in Australia including CSIRO spin-out Emesent, BIA5, AutoMap, Stealth Technologies, as well as GeoSLAM in the UK.

It is part of a push by CSIRO’s Data61 to make low-cost, easily adoptable technologies available for SMEs in a range of sectors, including manufacturing, supply chain, mining, energy and construction, to trial and integrate into their business, as part of the EAP initiative. The EAP builds on CSIRO’s focus to power SME growth in Australia by improving access to research and development (R&D).

Minister for Industry, Science and Technology, Karen Andrews said that the nation’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic was largely dependent on Australia’s ability to develop and harness technology.

“There is no business as usual in the post-COVID-19 economy,” Minister Andrews said. “Our success as a nation relies on our ability to unlock the potential of industry to create high-paid, lasting jobs. By harnessing our world-class science and technology in fields like AI, robotics and automation, we can open up new markets and take more of our products to the world. Initiatives like CSIRO’s Early Adopter Program have the potential to help small and medium-sized businesses to create new value, enhance productivity and grow more high-paid jobs to boost recovery.”

CSIRO Chief Executive Dr Larry Marshall said the pandemic presented a moment in time for small businesses to ride the digital transformation momentum.

“At this pivotal time in our history, the inclination is to batten down the hatches and postpone investments, when actually small business who double down on innovation can be part of driving our recovery from this pandemic-led recession and land us back in a much stronger position,” Dr Marshall said. “COVID-19 has disrupted every element of our lives, and while the devastating loss of life can’t be understated, we have an opportunity to determine the new kind of Australian economy we want to emerge from this crisis – one driven by innovation. Just as science and technology have been guiding our health and emergency response, so too will they drive our economic response and recovery from this pandemic.”

Dr Jon Whittle, Director of CSIRO’s Data61, said the new EAP initiative was aimed at accelerating technology adoption in SMEs by providing new technologies that are easily adoptable, translatable and reasonably priced to deliver fast return on investment.

“The Early Adopter Program is about getting new technology into the hands of industry as early as possible so they can trial, tweak, and ultimately create new value for their business,” Dr Whittle said. “Industry 4.0 automation technologies like Wildcat will play a particularly important role in enabling the digital transformation of industries. It’s this kind of adoption of next generation technology that will help businesses create a competitive advantage.”

Small and medium enterprises interested in learning more about EAP, or the range of SME services offered by CSIRO, should contact: