As part of The Entrepreneurs’ Programme – the Australian Government’s flagship initiative for small business development – SMEs have free, direct access to the pool of Innovation Connections Facilitation. These are highly experienced advisors that help SMEs regarding any knowledge and technology related issues – at no cost to your business. Since 2015, Deloitte Private has been working in partnership with AusIndustry to deliver Entrepreneurs’ Programme services nationally to boost the productivity and competitiveness of the Australian SME market. I had a chance to interview Paul Mason, a Deloitte Innovation Connections Facilitator working with Australian SMEs to tackle some of their practical knowledge and technology issues. What is Innovation Connections Facilitation? Innovation Connections Facilitation is one of the services available to SMEs through the Entrepreneurs’ Programme. This free service supports businesses by providing practical and targeted advice relating to a broad range of technology or knowledge related issues. Through Innovation Connections Facilitation, businesses work with an experienced facilitator who can assist them to overcome a particular technical challenge or issue in order to become more competitive, productive and efficient. This may include helping a business to: Identify and articulate a particular technology or knowledge issue Scope and define the parameters of the issue Research the local and international market to understand potential solutions, partners or networks Locate technical information (not often available in the public domain) Identify specialist suppliers, equipment, manufacturers or consultants. Why should SMEs work with an Innovation Connections’ facilitator? Innovation Connections facilitators can help businesses navigate an increasingly complex and regulated environment through services such as product validation, compliance or certification requirements. Businesses which work with an Innovation Connections facilitator often comment on the value of participating in this program. From their perspective, one of the most valuable outcomes is the connection to relevant industry and research experts, partners and networks. These relationships continue to provide ongoing support for the life of the business and deliver significant competitive advantage. Can you give an example of a business that has used the Innovation Connections Facilitation services? The owners of a Sydney-based business recently engaged an Innovation Connections facilitator to help them identify and overcome the barriers to entry for a new market. This business was in the process of commercialising a ground-breaking, patented medical technology, and had identified opportunities in the Australian medical applications market; however, they faced numerous challenges impacting market entry. The owners were also unfamiliar with the process or requirements needed to undertake medical trials in Australia. As a result of working directly with an Innovation Connections facilitator, they could: Identify suitable test laboratories Understand the process required to initiate and undertake medical trials in Australia Locate suitable technology partners to aid in product development and manufacture. The Innovation Connections facilitator also provided the owners with: Cost estimates Options to purchase specific test equipment Connections to various experts in the field A range of potential manufacturing partners. Through this process, a local business was also identified as a potential strategic partner for another product range to assist with product validation, produce pre-production runs, and assist with market trials and distribution. If you have a technical challenge or opportunity that you don’t know how to overcome, an Innovations Connections Facilitator may be able to help, and for free. To find out more about the Innovation Connections Facilitation services within the Entrepreneur’s Programme, please visit here or contact Paul Mason or myself.