While Australian researchers worked to develop solutions in a world panic-stricken by COVID-19, one piece of technology would fall by the wayside until SaniteX Global founder David A. Collard helped realise its potential.
Collard's vision to commercialise the Vital Monitoring System (VMS) developed by three Australian research institutes has paid off, with the technology now integrated into Samsung’s Galaxy Watch4 smartwatch.
The technology allows employees to wake up and fill out a questionnaire while the device measures vital signs such as heart rate and blood oxygen (SpO2) levels, which are compared as a verification each morning before they head off to work.
But it was almost never to be. VMS was initially developed by Deakin University's Applied Artificial Intelligence Institute, the National Trauma Research Institute (NTRI) and Alfred Health as a response to the imminent threat of COVID-19 that was wreaking havoc elsewhere in early 2020.
In its first iteration the technology was monitoring the health of hospital patients as they deteriorated from the virus.
"Our best institutions had developed it, looking at what was happening in Italy, in New York, and their overwhelmed hospitals, and they developed it around the clock to make Australia ready," Collard tells Business News Australia.
But when the nation went into lockdown there was little perceived use for the original technology, which as Collard put it, “no one in Australia wanted".
However, he wondered whether VMS could pivot to a preventative screening system to detect early signs of COVID-19, yielding an enthusiastic response from Deakin's researchers who believed it could be adjusted for that purpose.
More than a year later, the technology has gone from that concept to a trial with one of the world's leading electronics brands. The global launch of VMS has begun in the US and is being facilitated through another of Collard’s ventures, re-open.com - a suite that offers tech solutions across a range of specialty fields, with an earlier project called Smart Analytical Model (SAM) using machine-learning and algorithms to simplify the supply chain process for businesses or institutions.
Speaking with Business News Australia, Collard explains the conundrum faced by Australian innovators.
“We are really good at research. We don't have a big enough population or big enough infrastructure around to be able to commercialise those innovations,” Collard says.
“Unlike the US with the institutions that have big endowments that they can tap into, our universities need to think differently.”
The former PricewaterhouseCoopers partner believes this is a blessing in disguise – without the financial safety net, it has forced our institutions “to change the way that they approach commercialisation, research, innovation and partnerships internationally.”
To help innovators navigate the process way of converting ideas into business ventures, Geelong-based SaniteX Global has developed a system known as ‘Scale Facilitation’, which streamlines development from early stages and establishes channels for scaling and growth.
“Scale Facilitation really talks about assisting innovators to think differently, to know that they've got a company with the right values and principles, and the people that are onboarded with those understand them clearly,” said Collard.
“And it's around supporting them to commercialise rather than having their colleagues fired and finding a way for the world to know about Australian innovation.”
The process begins with ensuring intellectual property is created in Australia, allowing universities and key inventors to retain a percentage of ownership.
With their ideas pitched to institutions overseas, ‘Scale Officers’ - a team of skilled operators who transitioned from US Special Operation - are assigned to manage channels for commercialisation and growth.
This choice is deliberate, as the partnership with the Special Operators Transition Foundation (SOTF) is designed to recruit veterans that bring focus, discipline, confidence and loyalty towards their projects.
Meanwhile, the future of SaniteX Global’s collaborations with Deakin’s Applied Artificial Intelligence Institute remains bright, as the company contributed $1 million to continue the alliance on re-open.com.
Headstrong, the company will continue the fight for Australian ideas and innovation overseas. Growth has been the aim of the game, as Collard now has over 60 companies across multiple continents, hiring over 50 people in the last 12 months.
“I have no problem saying I'm an Aussie over here, defending Australian companies and defending people who don’t have, for whatever reason, their company here,” he said.
“You need companies like ours, that have Australian interests at heart, to then connect and facilitate and hold the ground in those negotiations to really get the best for Australia but also for America.”
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