When bestie was a little under a year old, I found myself in the first cohort of the CSIRO's Innovate to Grow program. One of the things I saw there, was data that showed a correlation between business growth and R&D activity.
We had already started our own research and development projects at bestie but that data and the CSIRO program reinforced my view that we needed to do more than once-off R&D; we needed to have an ongoing program of innovation. The trick though, is not to be 'willy nilly' with it, but embed a logical method and approach. I definitely learnt some good approaches to this in the CSIRO program.
You can actually see me talk about this program a bit more (alongside other SME founders), here.
We'd also been lucky enough to be approved for a CSIRO Kick-Start research project on a range of nutraceutical gummy chews.
CSIRO Kick-Start is an initiative for innovative Australian start-ups and small SMEs, providing funding support and access to CSIRO’s research expertise and capabilities to help grow and develop their business.
Working with Newcastle holistic vet Dr Kathy Cornack, bestie had developed a range of nutraceutical formulations targeting chronic conditions like anxiety, cognitive decline, stress, immune system health oral health and more, in dogs.
However, just as COVID hit in early 2020, we hit a brick wall in development. I was pretty frustrated. I’d already worked with a compound chemist and run over 30 tests internally, but I found that I just couldn’t solve a key formulation issue we had.
We sought research expertise and found it via the CSIRO’s Kick-start program.
At first I thought, ‘who are we to approach someone like the CSIRO? They’re for grown-up companies, not start-ups!’ But then I investigated Kick-start further and was thrilled to be approved for their program to conduct a research to develop suitable carriers for delivery of our nutraceutical formulations in stabilised format.
You can read more about that project on the CSIRO's blog.
Fast forward about a year or so - because frankly, our gummy chew project was a lot harder than it looked at first - and the next stage in our development, was to be approved for federal commercialisation funding.
Bestie Kitchen was one of 15 Australian manufacturers awarded the funding, administered by the Federal Government’s Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre (AMGC) in consultation with all Industry Growth Centres, and CSIRO. The company has a total project commitment of $344,850 with $149,925 provided in co-funding.
The funds will be used to establish a manufacturing line and finalise the development of nutraceutical gummy chews for dogs and cats.
When I started this project, I had no understanding of the processing complexity that would be involved. However, having worked with the CSIRO food science team on this over the last year, we now have the IP we can commercialise. And I’m pretty thrilled to receive this grant which will help us make that happen.
After the grant was announced, Managing Director for AMGC, Dr Jens Goennemann said:
“Bestie Kitchen is a great example of an Australian manufacturer seeking new opportunities in traditional markets. Bestie Kitchen is leveraging best of breed research and technology to manufacture products which are set to become market leading.”
“We encourage all manufacturers to constantly review their operations and products with a view to being better, not cheaper. In doing so, manufacturers will unlock greater opportunities both locally and abroad.”
I believe the project should also see the creation of new jobs in the region, and help Bestie Kitchen target domestic and export sales.
If I look back to the beginning though, as a small business, developing and managing an R&D project initially seemed impossible.
However, with the government support we’ve been able to secure, we’ve been able to slowly develop this step by step. We’ve also learnt a lot about how to better scope and manage this kind of activity too.