Melbourne Health Accelerator gets $1 million to boost commercialisation

3/10/2018
LaunchVic has given $1 million to help Melbourne's leading health innovator commercialise new ideas with support from Melbourne Business School.
 
The funding will allow for the creation of a new Victorian Health Accelerator Network (VHNx) at the Royal Melbourne Hospital. The Royal Melbourne is partnering with the School and others to help start-ups turn their ideas into a reality. The funding will also allow regional hospitals to develop their own innovation programs.

"The funding from LaunchVic will allow us to grow our activities here and become a major hub of health innovation in Victoria as we develop new regional spokes, firstly at Bendigo Hospital, and eventually elsewhere," said Dr Patricio Sepulveda, Director of Business Development at The Royal Melbourne. 

The Victorian Health Accelerator will expand on the success of the Melbourne Health Accelerator (MHx), which was Australia's first hospital-based health start-up accelerator program and has been at the Royal Melbourne since 2016. It is one of the few of its kind in the world.

"Health innovation belongs in hospitals. There is no other place where you can bring patients, technology, research, entrepreneurs and practice together," Dr Sepulveda said.

"This money will help us show that our model is scalable, able to produce tangible outcomes and boost health innovation capacity at all clinical stages."

Melbourne Business School will join the accelerator's steering committee to provide input into the business education it provides to entrepreneurs on its health innovation program.

"Our accelerator has been providing this education for several years now, but we are not business education experts," Dr Sepulveda said.

"If you want to be a world-class health innovation hub, you have to offer world-class business knowledge. The partnership with Melbourne Business School means our entrepreneurs will get the best business advice possible."

The VHNx will help early-stage start-ups define and refine their ideas so they can attract investors when they leave the program.

Among its more than 30 start-up alumni are myBeepr and Medtasker, whose apps let medical staff know where they're needed urgently and why – something currently done by a combination of beepers and WhatsApp, which doctors use to find to what's going on.

One of Dr Patricio's favourite start-ups so far is an app developed by Order of Australia winner Dr Emma O'Brien.

"She uses clinically validated music therapy to control anxiety. I like it a lot. It comes in nine different languages and three solutions, which patients can download and clinicians monitor," he said.

Dr Patricio is especially pleased that more ideas are coming from doctors in hospitals, not just the external entrepreneurs he recruits to his accelerator.

"Hospitals are so focused on caring for patients that they haven’t seen themselves as responsible for driving innovation. But we're now seeing the clinicians coming up with solutions, so the process of generating internal innovation is working," he said.

Dr Patricio said it was great to see government continuing to invest in start-ups knowing that ideas can take many years to commercialise. 

"It's encouraging that governments and hospital leaders are recognising the long-term importance of innovation,” he said. 

"We are also looking for opportunities for students and faculty to get involved with the companies in our accelerator program. They can help us create innovation capacity and critical mass across the whole Victorian health system."