Innovation program to address unmet medical needs in regional Victoria

Patient in medihood to protect hospital staff from covid. Healthcare workers by hospital bedside
The Innovation Accelerator Program was built on learnings from the McMonty by medihood project, a collaboration between Western Health and the University of Melbourne to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 in hospitals. Credit: Penny Stephens.

University of Melbourne is expanding its Innovation Acceleration Program (IAP) into regional Victoria, giving clinicians the opportunity to build solutions for today’s urgent unmet healthcare needs.

Announced today by Minister for Industry Support and Recovery Ben Carroll and delivered in partnership with regional health network Bendigo Health, the 12-month pilot program will engage regional healthcare staff in the development of manufacturing opportunities for new medical technologies.

With geographically dispersed communities, there is a particular need for technologies that support remote monitoring and at home patient care.

Aimed at supporting regional clinicians to understand entrepreneurial thinking, participants will have the opportunity to translate their ideas into commercially viable and impactful solutions for patients and healthcare providers.

Clinicians will be connected with a multi-disciplinary team of innovators, engineers and manufacturers to work together to create real-word medtech solutions, alongside other hospital stakeholders, medtech entrepreneurs, investors and mentors.

The IAP is a multi-partner pre-accelerator program designed to identify and support early-stage venture creation across the University and its hospital partners.

It was built on the learnings from the McMonty by medihood project, a collaboration between Western Health intensive care specialist Associate Professor Forbes McGain and the University’s Head of Mechanical Engineering Professor Jason Monty that saw a fully mobile device, the personal ventilation hood, developed at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

To date, healthcare workers from Western Health and Royal Melbourne Hospital have identified over 60 unmet medical needs. These needs have been prioritised in cooperation with hospital staff and undergone a match-making process with researchers who work with the staff to create a solution that is fit-for-purpose.

University of Melbourne Professor John Prins, Head of the Melbourne Medical School said he is delighted the IAP is being extended to regional Victoria.

“This program brings together the best minds to develop a streamlined pathway for the development of ‘ready-to-go’ medical technology and improved patient care that can make a real difference to people’s lives,” Professor Prins said.

“Our colleagues in Bendigo and across the regional health network do an exceptional job and I’m looking forward to seeing all of the fantastic ideas from our healthcare workers on the frontline. The potential for innovative solutions that impact patient care, clinical and social benefit is immense.”

Bendigo Health Director of Research and Innovation Dr Angela Crombie said the organisation is looking forward to being part of this program, which is an opportunity for clinicians to turn their ideas into reality.

“The Loddon Mallee is a vast geographical region, with many of our community living considerable distances from health services. Medtech solutions are important clinical tools. Our regional clinicians understand the unmet health needs of our community and this collaboration offers the chance to translate their ideas into practical care solutions,” Dr Crombie said.

Bendigo Health Mental Health Technical Consultant Rushabh Shethia is looking forward to the program.

“I’m really excited about this type of program being available to us in Bendigo,” Mr Shethia said.

“I have heard heaps of ideas from others, and I have a few of my own to pitch. It’s great to have these programs and opportunities in regional Victoria. Anything that helps us work smarter, faster and safer is an asset to the organisation and the community.”

The regional IAP pilot is supported by the Victorian Government through the Australian Medtech Manufacturing Centre.