Medical tech. ‘on steroids’ at QUT

AN INTENSIVE entrepreneurship bootcamp at the Queensland Institute of Technology (QUT) campus has seen a number of technology start-ups ‘muscle up’ to some amazing medical solutions.

They range from a fashionable pair of earrings that assist women with gestational diabetes – by automatically monitoring and helping to control blood glucose levels – to a device that helps brain-to-bladder function among geriatric patients. 

The ideas were developed during an intensive week-long course held at QUT in Brisbane – the MIT Global Entrepreneurship Bootcamp – which attracted 118 entrepreneurial thinkers from around the globe.

Tasked to find novel solutions to some of the world’s biggest global problems, the top two teams were chosen for their solutions to the most personal of medical problems.

MIT Global Entrepreneurship Bootcamp  participants were selected from more than 6,000 global applicants to transform their innovative ideas into burgeoning businesses.

They were put through the rigours of a one-year MIT course, condensed into a seven-day action-based learning experience, led by entrepreneur-turned-educator Bill Aulet, who also wrote the book Disciplined Entrepreneurship.

Brisbane women Tamara Mills and QUT’s alumni Nyree McKenzie and Lee Brentzell were among the top two teams, selected to pitch their ideas to an international panel of venture capitalists from Brisbane, San Francisco and Boston at the conclusion of the bootcamp.

Ms Mills is a second-time gestational diabetic who has a MedTech commercialisation background. She joined Jean Hausser from Israel, Abhishek Appaji from India, Brendan Barbato from the US and Coutney Condren from Australia to form a team called EZBT during the MIT Bootcamp.

The team shared experience in diabetes research and development, biomedical engineering and artificial intelligence computational bioscience.

“One in 10 pregnant women will be diagnosed with gestational diabetes and one in three babies born to women with gestational diabetes have complications such as being born abnormally large with high risk of developing diabetes later in life,” Ms Mills said.

Ms Mills said up to 60 percent of women with gestational diabetes did not comply with regular self-monitoring requirements and diet control recommendations and this could have significant implications on the health of the mother and baby.

She said the cost of complications as a result of gestational diabetes in the US is estimated higher than $2 billion per annum and rising.

“We are developing a non-invasive wearable device, a fashionable pair of earrings that not only continuously monitors blood glucose levels without needles and without hassle, but leverages deep machine learning to predict blood glucose response to foods before being eaten, helping mothers minimise complications for themselves and their babies,” she said. 

The team filed a provisional patent on the non-invasive blood glucose measurement technology alongside building the working prototype due to be complete in July this year.

“We have had significant interest expressed by healthcare providers and insurance companies across Australia and the US and are actively seeking investment for full commercial development of the technology,” Ms Mills said.

“It was an honour to be named winners of the MIT Bootcamp but we didn’t set out to win but to learn as much as possible about disciplined entrepreneurship and build the foundations of a company that can improve the lives of mothers with gestational diabetes.

The all-Australian second place finalists, named InConfidence, drew upon their combined clinical, medical technology and commercial backgrounds to pitch a solution that addressed a widespread problem facing Australia’s aging population.

Ms McKenzie (pictured right) said 70 percent of people living in residential aged care suffer from urinary and/or faecal incontinence with conventional treatments largely unsuitable due to negative side effects and invasiveness of surgical procedures.

“These treatments combined with the more prevalent conservative solutions such as adult nappies lead to a loss of dignity, reduced independence and social isolation for incontinence sufferers,” Ms McKenzie said.

“Our solution overcomes the problem with a discrete, non-invasive wearable device that has minimal side effects.”

She said a functional prototype had been developed which acts to normalise the neural communication between the bladder/bowel and the brain to restore correct function.

Since their debut at QUT the teams have committed to formalising their entrepreneurship journey together.

Ms McKenzie said InConfidence had received interest from healthcare providers and would present the technology to the NSW Department of Health and to Cicada Innovations, an Australian deep technology incubator, for prospective funding.

“We realised that our team is stronger together, and so we’ve also become each other’s board of advisors to keep us all accountable and driven to see our ideas through to market commercialisation,” Ms McKenzie said.

Rowena Barrett, head of the School of Management at QUT, said the MIT Bootcamp helped build Brisbane as a global hub of innovation and entrepreneurship.

“Entrepreneurship is a skill that is being taught,” Professor Barrett said. “QUT is developing graduates who can choose to be entrepreneurs in applying their discipline skills and knowledge to solve future global challenges.”

The State Government’s Advance Queensland program partnered with QUT to bring the MIT Bootcamp to Australia.



WISE Employment finds great ability in disability

STANDARD recruitment practices are continually getting sub-standard results today, according to experts in the field at WISE Employment.

All too often, standard recruitment practices act against consideration of highly qualified and experienced applicants – who can offer enormous value to a business – because they may have a disability, according WISE. 

“Quite often, the standard recruitment process of online resume submission, phone screening and panel interviewing either doesn’t allow for a true reflection of a candidate’s skills, or becomes overwhelming for someone with a disability who may be the perfect fit for the role,” WISE Employment Victorian regional manager Doreen Micallef said. She said WISE was a not-for-profit employment agency specialising in assisting people with a disability and it monitored the market closely.

“As a hiring manager you will always be looking for the best fit and this certainly still applies,” Ms Micallef said. She often asked the question, “Have you taken the time to consider whether your hiring process could be improved for the better by taking into consideration how people of different abilities can get their skills across to you in the best way?

“We often find that employers are not aware of the benefits of bringing candidates from both the Disability Employment Services (DES) and (Department of Employment) ‘jobactive’ programs into their workforce,” Ms Micallef said.

“Job seekers with a disability are very enthusiastic about gaining meaningful employment, and will often have a lower rate of sick leave and a higher engagement and dedication to the job.

“Having an employee with a disability on your team can also affect positive change on other staff members, creating a great working environment. Employers also report similar benefits for candidates employed under the ‘jobactive’ program, which caters for the long term unemployed, mature age and refugee job seekers amongst others.

“Just the simple act of gaining employment can really change job seekers’ lives, with increases in self esteem and confidence leading to job satisfaction and improved retention rates.”

WISE Employment National Disability Employment Sales Manager Souzan Asfour said a point often raised by employers was the potential cost of employment of a job seeker who may need higher levels of assistance, or workplace modifications, to complete their job. She said these issues were catered for through the government programs.

“Under both the DES and jobactive programs, we support both the employer and the job seeker in the preparation of the workplace for their employment, at no cost to either party,” Ms Asfour said.

“The support continues once employment has commenced, until both parties are happy to go it alone.

“This could be in the form of personal support, funding for modifications and training or simply just a check in process with both parties,” she said. “Whatever support is required in each individual situation, you know WISE will be with you every step of the way.”

Ms Micallef said she always reassured employers that candidates were not asking for preferential treatment, “or for you to change the inherent requirements of the role, but to be given the opportunity to showcase their suitability in a way which will allow them to truly shine”.

As a not for profit, WISE Employment offers its services “completely free of charge to employers” Ms Micallef said.

WISE opened its doors in West Melbourne in 1992 and Ms Micallef said today its highly-trained and dedicated staff provided cost-free advice, training and other support to assist more than 10,000 eligible job seekers into jobs each year.

WISE Employment operates through  at 40 main offices and 57 part-time and outreach offices across New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory




Alibaba founder sets up UON scholarship

THE University of Newcastle (UON) believes it has established a groundbreaking scholarship program, made possible by the philanthropic support of Alibaba founder and executive chairman, Jack Ma, through the Jack Ma Foundation.

The Jack Ma Foundation will give US$20 million (AU$26.4 million) to fund this first-of-a-kind scholarship program at UON – and it all boils down to a friendship he struck up with Novocastrian Ken Morley on an Australia-China Friendship Society visit to Mr Ma’s hometown of Hangzhou, China. 

Now Mr Ma’s creation of The Ma & Morley Scholarship Program, the largest philanthropic commitment in UON’s historyand the Jack Ma Foundation’s first philanthropic contribution in Australia, will pay tribute to Mr Ma’s close personal connection to Newcastle.

When Mr Ma was a teenager, he met Ken Morley while the Morleyfamily were on that Hangzhou tour.

Mr Ma said Mr Morley went on to become a highly influential figure in his life, instilling core values and a global perspective that positively impacted Mr Ma’s future and contributed to his personal success. The men remained close friends until Mr Morley’s death in 2004.

“I am very thankful for Australia and the time I spent there in my youth,” Mr Ma said. “The culture, the landscape and most importantly its people had a profound positive impact on my view of the world at that time.

“To honour the experience and the special relationship I formed with the Morley family, the Jack Ma Foundation is delighted to announce The Ma & Morley Scholarship Program that will inspire, educate and cultivate tomorrow’s leaders.

“Alibaba was built by young people and we are committed to lifting up and empowering students so they can reach their dreams and ambitions.”

Mr Ma was joined by the NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian, UON chancellor Paul Jeans, UON vice-chancellor Caroline McMillen, and Mr Morley’s son, David Morley, to announce the scholarship program in Newcastle. 

Professor McMillen, said The Ma & Morley Scholarship Program at UON would have a transformational impact on the lives of students and shape the next generation of leaders.

“Through this remarkable friendship spanning decades, a new generation of talented students will have the opportunity to reach their full personal and professional potential,” Prof. McMillen said.

Unique to the Australian higher education sector, she said The Ma & Morley Scholarship Program would help establish a long-lasting community of scholars and provide them with a comprehensive engagement and enrichment program to develop key networks and friendships, “as well as experience important practical training to equip them for leadership in the global environment”.

“This scholarship program will exemplify the shared values between Mr Ma and Mr Morley, and aims to develop the next generation of globally aware and socially conscious Australian leaders,” Prof. McMillen said.

Students will be selected based on their interest and commitment towards cross-cultural understanding, cooperation and peace; social justice and equity; fairness and ethics in entrepreneurship and industrial relations; and sustainable development, including environment, conservation and renewable energy.

Reflecting UON’s commitment to providing excellence and equitable access to education for anybody with ability and determination, the scholarship program will also focus on supporting students from disadvantaged and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander backgrounds.

“I am particularly delighted that this program will enable students from disadvantaged backgrounds to access educational, professional and cultural experiences that might otherwise be out of reach, and that it will support the development of a new cohort of Indigenous leaders.” Prof. McMillen said.

In its initial year, The Ma & Morley Scholarship Program will support 30 new UON scholarships, 20 scholarships to support students throughout the duration of their degree, including access to a unique and comprehensive engagement and enrichment program, and 10 one-off scholarships to support educational exchange, internship or immersion activities.

When the program reaches full capacity, it will support 90 students per year.

David Morley, who still lives in Newcastle, said the family were “really happy to see Jack remember his Newcastle connection” and to be honouring their dad’s egalitarian values through this generous scholarship program.

“Dad would be extremely proud of Jack’s commitment to making a difference to students in our hometown, and so touched that their close friendship has led to this program, which will transform the futures of hundreds of University of Newcastle students, to hopefully do good things in the world,” David Morley said.

The first round of The Ma & Morley Scholarship Program will be advertised in mid-2017 for students commencing their first year of an undergraduate degree at UON in 2018.



VET-FEE replacement scheme starts

THE Coalition Government’s replacement for what it calls “Labor’s failed VET FEE-HELP scheme” started on January 1 2017.

The previous system had been subjected to rorts by a range of registered training organisations (RTOs), of which several major companies folded in late 2016 leaving students stranded.

Education and Training Minister Simon Birmingham said the new VET Student Loans program was designed to support students to undertake industry-linked and value-for-money courses at quality training providers. 

“The Turnbull Government’s VET Student Loans program incorporates the lessons learnt from the disastrous VET FEE-HELP scheme that the Auditor-General highlighted last month,” Mr Birmingham said.

“VET Student Loans includes a range of new measures to protect students and taxpayers, address skills shortages and ultimately restore the reputation of the vocational education sector.

“Labor’s 2012 VET FEE-HELP changes opened the floodgates to shonky providers who ripped off vulnerable students and taxpayers but the new safeguards we’ve put in place mean students can have confidence that the training they are receiving is aligned to workplace needs and strong employment outcomes, and is being delivered by training providers who have met the tougher benchmarks we have set,” Mr Birmingham said.

“The support the government and taxpayers will provide through VET Student Loans will help Australians get the right skills and education they need to find a career that combines their passions with long-term job prospects.”

Mr Birmingham said thousands of VET FEE-HELP students had already opted in to the new program and all training organisations which had applied had been assessed and notified whether they could deliver courses through VET Student Loans during the transition period to July 2017.

“Since we outlined the details of VET Student Loans in October, the Turnbull Government and the Department of Education and Training have been working to ensure a quick and smooth transition from Labor’s failed VET FEE-HELP scheme for the training sector and for affected students,” Mr Birmingham said.

“Already more than 26,000 students have opted to finish their course under VET FEE-HELP, and 193 training organisations have been granted provisional approval to deliver courses under the new program until the end of June 2017.

“We are still actively contacting VET FEE-HELP students who have not completed their course and have yet to indicate if they wish to be grandfathered.  I encourage any student who was a part of the VET FEE-HELP scheme to get in touch with us before they resume studies in 2017 and no later than March 31 to ensure they continue to be supported to complete their study.

“Applications are also now open for training organisations who want to offer VET Student Loans to students in courses from July 1, 2017. Providers have until February 19 to apply and will need to demonstrate a strong track record of delivering high quality training and achieving employment outcomes for students.

“These stringent requirements will ensure that only high quality providers, committed to delivering high quality training and strong employment outcomes for Australian students, employers and taxpayers will be approved.”

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.