Our MD Aaron Maher got together with the CEO of the Actuator program in Melbourne to discuss how the program is helping shape the future of healthcare in Australia.
For the full interview check out the podcast:
How has MedTech innovation changed in Australia?
Buzz: MedTech innovation is in an interesting spot in Australia right now. Australia has a history of MedTech innovation, even if we look back to the 1920s where we had the invention of the pacemaker. However, there seems to be a gap between disruptive innovation and MedTech. We seem to get a spirt and then nothing and then another spirt.
There does seem to be a change in the understanding that we need to be pushing healthcare. This is because in order to play a part in the space we must do something about it. Given we invest so much in research you would think we would have a great innovation pipeline. We have some of the best healthcare in the world. If we start taking a few risks, I think we will see MedTech innovation take off. While this is so, we need to have a pipeline, we have to have positions in place in order to allow innovation to happen.
Aaron: We have seen over the last 5 years the start-up community growing hand over fist. I mean we have incubators and all of these meet-ups with successful people sharing. I think that within itself is growing the ecosystem. It gets people inspired, it has people feeling that it is achievable.
If we look back at when Procept was founded, in 2006. There was virtually no MedTech. Back when we were developing as a company it was all about mining (naturally given the mining boom) as well as instrumentation, control and automation. Back then we were only working with established businesses. However, we now see a change, there is a greater focus on start-ups and the start-up community. Companies are now coming through start-ups looking for new innovations. They aren’t just taking technology from the U.S. and Europe and bolting it together to sell it in Australia. We are now creating our own IP and product.
How is the Actuator contributing to the Australian MedTech industry?
Buzz: The Actuator program, took around 5-6 years to come together. Throughout my time here in Australia, I have seen a lot of start-ups and technology come through. One of the biggest things I noticed was that we invest billions of dollars into healthcare research. I think this is for two reasons.
- We are looking for economical dividends and industrial growth so that we can pay more tax and it goes back into the research system. It’s a beautiful cycle.
- We do research because we want better healthcare for Australians.
I wanted to create a system where we could bring these start-up companies with great innovative ideas, to the PD companies and investors. If we could do this we could make a major change. So we started with MedTech’s Got Talent, so we could get entrepreneurs to start thinking about entrepreneurship and see if there are any start up opportunities. We can then see if we can get the PDs to mentor them through. From that a few little start-ups came out of it, but there was no funding. There is no such thing as seed funding in Australia, so a lot of them went off shore or just closed shop.
The issue was, we kept thinking.. Wow, that was a great idea or, that’s a great piece of IP and you’re a great team. The only thing that is failing you is access to a small amount of capital and the education you need to do what you need to do in business. So we developed the concept of the Actuator from that.
The Actuator has 3 focuses:
- Education: through workshops and boot camps. The goal here is to get the next generation of entrepreneurs thinking that they can be entrepreneurial.
- MedTechs Got Talent: Which is a national competition aimed at entrepreneurs. To get them to take risks in healthcare, why not do it in an environment that is surrounded by industry and universities. These places are surrounded by people that can actually help you with what you need to do.
- The Flagship Program: The Actuator Accelerator – The idea there is that we enable a pipeline to success for our start-up. They come into the program where they get up to $200,000 in seed funding. We take them through some funding mechanisms, like angel and series A. They are then taken through a 6 month accelerator that is delivered by industry so they really understand and learn what it is like to think about regulation, business modelling and that these are the attributes you need to consider when creating a company, marketing branding etc. But the secret sauce to the Actuator program is the PD companies. The ability to have access to those engineers and that creative thinking to help them understand what the market needs, who is going to use it and how to scale that technology to a defined moment that you can sell it to the market place.
Aaron: The big thing we see as a re-occurring theme as a product development company is that MedTech start-ups tend to lack the business aspects- what it takes to have an idea, get the funding, develop a product, set up the distribution chains, manufacture it, post market surveillance. It is all those things that they tend to forget about! What they are really focused on is the product, and just forget about everything else. Which I think is one thing we need to get better at as Australians, the commercialisation of product, we are very good at developing product and have a great PD ecosystem. However, the real gap lies in building the businesses, which is where I think the Actuator program fills part of that gap, where you are helping them through a process to identify those gaps and fill them.
To read more about The Actuator program or to find out how it can help your MedTech start-up head to: medtechactuator.com