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Anywise reflections on 'Innovation During COVID-19' webinar

Updated: Sep 30, 2020

Last week, an Anywise team attended a webinar hosted by Engineers Australia in association with The University of Melbourne. The panel of experts discussed a range of topics including applying engineering expertise in med tech, collaboration between engineers and clinicians, and data privacy.

Here were a few of the main takeaways from the discussion:

- Universities are well-placed to develop prototypes for hospitals but need to become more agile

- Pandemic crisis has shown a need to develop better data governance frameworks

- Effective collaboration between engineers and clinicians has increased the awareness of the capabilities of engineers in the hospital setting

- Innovation in technology is being driven at lightning speed due to COVID-19

- More interaction between hospitals, universities and industry in the future

Graphic recording done by Melbourne-based graphic recorder and illustrator Zahra Zainal.

Effective collaboration

3DMEDiTech Chief Operations Officer Eric Bert discussed how his company was able to successfully get their products approved while other businesses were finding it difficult as they didn’t have previous experience of navigating the regulatory procedures, despite having good products that were a viable solution to the COVID-19 crisis.

After seeing how overrun hospitals were from COVID-19 patients in China, the USA and Italy, it was imperative that Australia prepared itself for a similar situation. In less than 48 hours, 3DMEDiTech had used their team of researchers and designers to print two COVID-19 products using 3D printing. The products were a pressure modulation diffuser and test kit swabs.

Regulators have the hard task of weighing up the benefits and the risks to patients, hospital staff and society. Mr Bert said that during the pandemic, technologists and regulators have been able to work more closely together to get through the benefits-risk analysis process quicker.

Prof David Grayden added that products that were better positioned to get the green light to be manufactured were the companies where engineers were working closely with clinicians.

“Even after COVID is over, I think there is a real need for us to really understand what are the real clinical problems and what are the industries that can either be tapped on the shoulder or what start-ups can be started to create solutions to those problems so everyone can access them.” – Prof Grayden.

Better data governance

Professor Karin Verspoor is the Director of Health Technologies for the Melbourne School of Engineering. She said when it comes to data governance, we are relatively immature. How our information is shared and collected should respect the needs of privacy. Prof Verspoor said to do this effectively, we need to think about data from the perspective of the people having their data collected but also the people who are looking and using that data (eg. governments).

Sometimes it’s OK to say no

The panel also discussed that sometimes it’s fine to say no to a project because there are limitations to your environment or gaps in your knowledge. Often it’s a matter of collaborating with more people on a project to fill in those gaps to be able to provide the best possible service or product.

Becoming more agile

Prof Jason Monty said that we’ve all become more agile since the pandemic started. All the processes including business development and legal have had to move a lot faster which is encouraging. Universities have received complaints over many years that they are too slow because the agility isn’t there. Prof Monty said we can’t have three year programs that take 12 months to get the green light.

“I fully believe all those processes will be accelerated and help us work much better with industry, not just in the med tech space but all industries,” - Prof Monty.

How can engineering students kick start their career?

The Biodesign Innovation Melbourne is a joint program for Masters of Engineering and MBA students. These students go out and work in a clinical environment and find solutions to real problems that clinicians are facing. Many students have gone off after graduating to start companies to produce their products.

The Victorian Government also offers internship opportunities for engineering students.

Final thoughts from Anywise

The coronavirus crisis has demonstrated that innovation isn’t just about start-ups and new products, but about being able to do things more efficiently and differently. Australia’s only face mask manufacturer Med-Con based near Shepparton started ramping up production as the world saw a global shortage of personal protective equipment. While Med-Con has been operating for decades, they accepted support from the ADF to maintain and ensure elevated production outputs to cope with demand.

The pandemic has made it clear that Australia needs to invest more money in local innovation so that more jobs are created. While our unemployment rate continues to rise, more jobs are still being created in the tech sector. According to data from LinkedIn, high-tech jobs in Australia had increased by 17.3 per cent compared to this time last year.

Minister for Industry, Science and Innovation, Karen Andrews said feedback she’s received from people in the tech industry is that there’s been a lack of collaboration between government and industry. As outlined in the Innovation During COVID-19 discussion, collaboration between government, university and industry was vital to speeding up the process of creating products to help hospital staff working on the frontline.

Clients of Anywise have relied upon Anywise agile methodologies and principles when the COVID-19 pandemic struck. As an agile consulting firm, Anywise was already well versed in operating high performing remote teams. This allowed clients to have access to mentoring and assistance as the pandemic created uncertainty and disruption. Anywise has continued to deliver projects within the science and technology sector, persistently seeking innovation and collaboration between industry, academia government.

Anywise would also like to extend gratitude to the frontline healthcare workers and those that are supporting them through innovation.

Anywise has a strong team of project managers, many of whom come from an engineering background. All project managers are certified Scrum Masters who follow the agile methodology and have been able to adapt quickly during the COVID-19 pandemic. Contact us today.


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