The University of Wollongong has launched an Illawarra Innovation Quest to help local businesses address COVID-19 challenges.
The university is inviting businesses to apply for the challenge grants by October 26.
It comes as the NSW Government's COVID-19 recovery plan includes Innovation Districts Challenges designed to accelerate the commercialisation of research products that enable businesses to address the impacts of COVID-19.
The first challenge round is focused on health and wellbeing solutions that reduce the impact of COVID-19 on NSW residents.
A total funding pool of $500,000 is being offered in each challenge round with highest ranked applicants in the state receiving $250,000.
The second-highest ranked applicants will receive $100,000 and the third highest $30,000.
And the highest ranked applicant in each innovation district not among the state-wide overall recipients may be eligible for a $10,000 grant.
Minister for families, communities and disability services Gareth Ward said the program would boost businesses in the region that are working on solutions for the most challenging issues that COVID-19 has brought into local communities.
"We urge businesses to come forward and take advantage of this opportunity and find ways of addressing the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic affecting the people," Mr Ward said.
"I thank UOW for supporting the NSW Government's program and providing a platform to local businesses to showcase their ideas and innovations that will eventually boost their confidence while addressing these challenges."
UOW deputy vice-chancellor (research and innovation) Professor Jennifer Martin said the program will act as a bridge linking local businesses with the university's world-class research and innovation infrastructure.
"The health and wellbeing challenges are among the most critical that need to be addressed. I'm confident that through this initiative businesses will get vital support and funding to help them find impactful solutions to these urgent challenges," Prof Martin said.
UOW Council member and Suicide Prevention Australia chief executive Nieves Murray said COVID-19 had been a significant factor in the wave of suicides and mental health issues presently facing Australia, which need to be addressed urgently.
"COVID-19 has affected the health and wellbeing right across our communities and so it's important we understand and address these impacts over the longer run," Ms Murray said.
"This is the best time for businesses to come forward and participate in the program and contribute to finding practical solutions that will benefit and support communities facing health and wellbeing challenges."
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