Impact: MTPConnect projects delivering results

03 December 2018

Pictured above: Our projects (Project Fund Program and BioMedTech Horizons program) overview and impact.

With the final preparations being made for tomorrow’s fantastic Industry Growth Centre Showcase at Parliament House in Canberra, and as 2018 draws to a close, it’s timely to reflect on the achievements of the MTPConnect-supported projects.

MTPConnect, the Growth Centre from the Medical Technologies and Pharmaceuticals sector, forges stronger connections between research and industry and maximises opportunities for Australians to make scientific and technological breakthroughs that are successfully translated and commercialised.

We work with our project partners to achieve these outcomes by improving collaboration, providing and facilitating funding, developing skills, informing policy and promoting regulatory reform.

Through the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science (DIIS) Project Fund Program, we have invested $15.6 million across 37 collaborative projects, engaging over 160 consortium members and leveraging $22 million of matched cash funding from industry and a further $3.7 million in in-kind support.

MTPConnect also administers the BioMedTech Horizons (BMTH) program for the Department of Health. Delivered via the Medical Research Future Fund, BMTH supported 11 projects in 2018 and attracted $13.3 million in contributions from industry.

So in all, MTPConnect is supporting 48 projects across Australia. They involve 41 universities and health institutes and 142 industry partners. The projects cover areas ranging from 3D anatomical printing and precision medicine to clinical trials, advanced manufacturing and industry mentoring.

And they are delivering impressive results. Our projects have seen 79 new technologies being invented or progressed, 37 new patents/trademark applications and licenses, 11 new start-up companies, 45 direct jobs being created and more than $6 million of investment flowing into incubator companies.

Our projects have supported 42 trade missions, giving international market access to over 1,000 individuals. Collaboration and training events have been another well supported activity with almost 400 events and over 12,000 attendees.

We also assisted entities with a pre-submission review of their translational and industry-focused product development competitive grant applications in the CRC, CRC-P, and ITRP programs. Our support resulted in 26 successful grants leading to more than $125 million of funding flowing into the MTP sector.

You can check out details of all our projects at our website but there are a few I’d like to specifically mention.

The Bridge Program, now in its second year and led by the Queensland University of Technology in collaboration with pharmaceutical and venture capital partners, continues to make a significant contribution in the area of workforce skills. They are working to boost the commercialisation skills and business acumen of researchers and life science entrepreneurs through training and direct exposure to industry practitioners. It’s all with a view to enhancing Australia’s capacities to successfully translate ideas into commercial products.

The early results have been impressive. Around 35 per cent of the year one participants reported an increase in pharmaceutical commercialisation activities in their research at their six-month follow up survey. Bridge was so successful in its first year that QUT, again in collaboration with MTPConnect and industry partners, launched The BridgeTech program. The commercialisation successes we’ve seen in pharmaceuticals are now being experienced by early career researchers in the medical technology, medical devices and diagnostics sector.

Two of our projects, funded in our first round in 2016, have now finished: Accelerating Australia and BioFab3D.

Accelerating Australia is a national consortium of 20 biomedical research institutions, universities, healthcare providers and companies. The project facilitated translation of biomedical research through experiential entrepreneurial courses, brokerage and early stage commercialisation support services. In the 12-months to March 2018, 194 people took part in training courses run by their members or by external providers but sponsored by the consortium. The funding received for this project enabled access to CERI, MIME SPARK, SPARK Co‐Lab Design and SPARK Global courses, as well as commercialisation advisory sessions for budding biomedical innovators. Their trainees have invented 19 new medical technology opportunities and since won commercial grants, seed funding, placements in accelerator programs, established companies and filed patent applications.

Accelerating Australia was successful in a second MTPConnect Project grant in 2017 to extend the training into all Australian States.

BioFab3D@ACMD is a partnership involving a hospital, four universities and a MedTech company to develop a robotics and biomedical engineering centre, embedded within a hospital. Researchers, clinicians, engineers and industry partners work alongside each other with a vision to build biological structures such as organs, bones, brain, muscle, nerves and glands.

MTPConnect Project funds were used to provide equipment for the centre. Since it’s opening last year, the BioFab centre has hosted 15 undergraduate or master’s student researchers, 11 PhD researchers and 10 research fellows or senior research fellows. The Centre is also being used as a practical space for lab demonstrations for university undergraduates.

With impressive outcomes around skills, industry collaboration and commercialisation, both these projects have delivered in ways we all knew they would. They’re also adding value to the MTP sector in many unexpected ways.

Extensive intra-project collaboration is seeing projects sharing venues and running joint events; they are passing students on to the next learning initiative, once they have participated and ‘graduated’ from the first and individuals and companies are collaborating with each other and the industries involved to bring a commercialisation focus to their work and other courses they are developing.

As MTPConnect-supported projects continue to thrive, so does the broader Australian MedTech and Pharma sector. And with creation of new, high paying jobs and increased economic growth, our sector will continue to contribute to Australia’s growing knowledge intensive economy – and our future prosperity.

Elizabeth States is the Director, Major Projects at MTPConnect.