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The top three applications made to the Illawarra Innovation Quest will go on to compete for their share of a $500,000 funding pool at the statewide finals.
State Challenge
  • $250,000 - Highest ranked state applicant
  • $100,000 - Second highest ranked state applicant
  • $30,000 - Third highest ranked state applicant


District Challenge
  • $10,000 - Highest ranked district applicant (for each of the 12 districts)
  • Application Support Program (for Top 3 in district)

Eligibility criteria

To be eligible, businesses must have:

• An ABN registered in NSW and be based in NSW

• Fewer than 200 employees

• Been trading for at least 12 months

• At least $75,000 in sales revenue or operating expenditure within the last 12 months or previous financial year

• A product or service (which may still be in development) that it intends to market within 12 months that directly addresses the theme for Innovation Districts Challenge Three (Entrepreneurship)

• Ownership that is at least 75% Australian and is not more than 50% owned by another business

Eligibility demonstration

To demonstrate eligibility, businesses must also provide:

• An operating profit and loss statement for the last 12 months or previous financial year

• Brief profiles of key personnel such as a CV or LinkedIn accounts

• Nomination of their primary innovation district partner


All applicants must submit the eligibility application form via this link Treasury New South Wales.

What type of projects can be submitted?

Preference will be given to applications that address one or more of the following:

• Are scalable

• Are based on research

• Strengthen Australia’s sovereign capability

• Support a sector in need of reform

• Help sectors pivot to high growth

• Address the workforce gap created by international closures

• Champion Indigenous entrepreneurs

Examples of suitable businesses

• An automated fruit-picking system to supplement the limited supply of international workers who traditionally harvest crops.

• A local pharmaceutical manufacturer expanding their capabilities to produce a new rapid diagnostic test for Covid-19

• A supply chain expert with a cold-chain solution that will allow for the safe delivery of mRNA vaccines to remote communities or 3rd world countries.

• An Indigenous entrepreneur who’s created a new platform to support education and online learning in remote communities

• A machine vision system able to detect compliance with mask wearing and social distancing regulations.


The following will not be considered eligible for funding:

• Solutions that do not directly respond to the challenge statement for Research and Development (R&D) solutions that strengthen the entrepreneurship capability of the state for a post-COVID-19 economy

• Solutions designed to improve internal business processes

• A Commonwealth, state or local government agency or body including government business enterprises

Submit by
23 August

UOW Expression of Interest application deadline
open until 23 August 2021, 11:59pm


1. Expression Of Interest

26 July 2021 

Online application opens

4 August & 18 August 2021 

Information sessions

23 August 2021

UOW Expression of Interest application deadline (closes 11:59pm)

2. Innovation Support Program

25 August 2021 

Top 6 announced

27 August 2021

Top 6 invited to Insights & Lessons Learned session

1 September 2021

Pitch Showdown & Top 3 announced

2-24 September 2021

Top 3 Innovation Support Program

3. State Challenge

30 September 2021 

Top 3 applications are submitted to Investment NSW

2-3 months later

State winners announced

Apply now

UOW Applications close 23 August, 11:59pm

You will need to provide an Expression of Interest, a summary of your Pitch, and a 2-minute video. 

Apply now

Innovative Support Program

2-3 x half days
during 2-24 September 2021

Applicants will receive an e-mail from the government on 9 September on how to submit their application.​

By 30 September 2021, 4pm, the top 3 Finalists will need to submit their final application to the NSW Government.


Finalist businesses will need to provide:

  • Completed Stage Two Application Form
  • Budget and commercialisation plan
  • Video presentation up to two minutes
  • Declaration of conflicts of interest and description of any ethical or regulatory requirements to deliver the product or solution to a marketable state in NSW.

We will help you with all of the above.


University of Wollongong Support Program

During this phase, we will organise several support sessions, such as: 

Classroom style learning

  • Body language, presence & voice
  • General tone and pitching

1:1 coaching sessions:

  • Personalised pitching
  • Technical application writing


  • Basic visualisation​

Optional Support at Additional Cost:

  • Branding
  • UX & UI
  • Financial modeling
  • IP and financial support

Frequently Asked Questions

What does it cost?

There is no cost to participate in the challenge.


How much time is involved in the application process? 

The time involved will vary between applicants, proposed projects and how far you progress through the process. Book in a consultation with Zahra or Leo from the Innovation Quest team for advice on your solution's likely fit with the program's criteria and potential time requirements. 


Will my information be kept confidential? 

UOW and NSW Government may publicly announce grant funding for individual applications including the organisation, project title and/or short summary, and amount funded. In addition, applicants should be aware that information submitted in applications and all related correspondence, attachments and other documents may be accessed under the Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 (NSW). Information that is deemed to be commercially sensitive will be withheld.


If I am unsuccessful, will I be eligible to enter future challenges in this program, or other programs under NSW Treasury? 

Unsuccessful applicants will be eligible to access alternative funding to do R&D with UOW. Our Team will be in contact you to find the right solution. 


If I am successful in receiving a grant, what are the obligations? Are there milestones? 

Successful applicants will be required to submit progress reports at six month and 12-month intervals following receipt of the funding to the NSW Government.


How are applications assessed? 

An expert panel with representatives from both external stakeholders and the University of Wollongong will assess each eligible application. Applications will be evaluated against the Guideline Criteria. The top 6 applicants will pitch at the Pitch Showdown, and an independent panel will select the top 3 based on their pitch and Q&A.


What can I use the funding for?

Funding can be used for business activities that enable the commercialisation of a product or service that directly addresses the challenge statement, and is intended to be launched within 12 months. Solutions designed to improve internal business processes and projects that are unrelated to the challenge statement are not a valid use of funds. 


How can I learn more? 

If you think your solution and company fit the Innovation Quest criteria, register to attend an information session with the University of Wollongong.

Contact us

Email us with any questions or enquiries about the Illawarra Innovation Quest.

We would be happy to answer your questions and have a conversation with you.

Talk about your expression of interest and application with either Zahra or Leo.

Zahra Shahbazian

Leo Stevens