Reading brain signals to help the paralysed move and more—The Actuator taking Australia’s promising medical technologies to market

25 October 2017

Australian medtech start-ups will each have access to up to $4 million under a national program launched today.

The Actuator brings together leading players from across Australia’s medical technology innovation ecosystem, and is the first in a new generation of advanced technology accelerators.

“The Actuator bridges a gap in the market,” says Dr Laura Faulconer, Chief Technology Officer of The Actuator.

“Even amazing seed-stage medtech companies were taking 12 to18 months to raise their first round of funding in Australia. Some headed to better investment pastures, some died on the vine. We knew we needed to do something bold, and we knew we couldn’t do it alone—which drove the ambitious and deeply collaborative program design.”

This program was co-created by leading medtech entrepreneurs, product development companies and early-stage investors.

It will accept up to 40 global medtech startups each year into its rigorous 15-month technology and entrepreneurial skill development program. Along with training, the program will provide $200,000 seed investment and up to $2.5 million further matched funding through Series A through partners, Artesian. R&D tax incentive allows promising medtech start-ups a pathway to nearly $4 million within 15 months—an unprecedented accelerated pathway to market in Australia.

The program is being launched off the team’s success with MedTech’s Got Talent—an annual, nation-wide competition helping people get their medtech ideas off the ground.

“MedTech’s Got Talenthelped us learn how to translate our ideas into a commercial opportunity,” says Dr Nick Opie, a biomedical engineer from The University of Melbourne who took the top prize in MedTech’s Got Talent in 2014 with Dr Thomas Oxley and Dr Rahul Sharma.

Their idea became the stentrode—a minimally-invasive technology to transmit brain signals to wheelchairs, bionic arms or other devices, and could help those with amputations, paralysis or multiple sclerosis to move again.

The team now spans from Melbourne to Silicon Valley, and are now preparing for a world-first human trial, which will be conducted at the Royal Melbourne Hospital in 2018.

Nick says MedTech’s Got Talent provided exposure to funding opportunities that weren’t research-based, which they wouldn’t have otherwise heard of.

“But when we finished, there was still the question of ‘what’s next?’” Nick commented.

“The Actuator answers that question.

"I imagine there are a lot of people in Australia now—maybe even some who’ve been through to MedTech’s Got Talent—with early-stage ideas that they’re unsure how to progress. It will be great to have a program that supports these projects.”

“We are incredibly excited to be launching The Actuator—Australia’s National MedTech Accelerator,” says Dr Buzz Palmer, CEO of The Actuator.

“Our mission is to support our homegrown talent within their local innovation ecosystems, and build incredible successes. We are eager to see the game-changing ideas that are bubbling, emerge out of Australia.”

And his excitement is shared by The Actuator’s partner organisations, such as Artesian.

"Artesian are excited to be partnering with The Actuator, Australia’s pre-eminent MedTech Accelerator,” says Tim Heasley, COO of Artesian.

“The Actuator is an exciting initiative set to expedite technology transfer and research translation, stimulate the startup ecosystem, and bring together industry and stakeholder groups to pool efforts and increase impact, and we are excited to see what the first cohort will bring. We’re proud to fund it via the MTPConnect Project Fund Program which was developed to bring together all players in the sector from industry to research organisations and universities, to drive collaboration and commercialisation; overcoming identified constraints and barriers in the sector” says Sue MacLeman, Managing Director and CEO of MTPConnect.

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