Sparking a better connection between research and commercialisation

Picture by Darren Baker, Thinkstock

Picture by Darren Baker, Thinkstock

In summary: 
  • UTS's Faculty of Science and the Kolling Institute are collaborating on an Australian-first program to aid the commercialisation of innovative health and medical research
  • Based on a model pioneered by the Stanford University Medical School, SPARK Sydney will support researchers to translate good ideas into new therapeutics, diagnostics and devices

A new start-up program to aid the commercialisation of innovative health and medical research is being launched today by UTS and the Kolling Institute of Medical Research at Royal North Shore Hospital.

The program, SPARK Sydney will be the first of its kind in Australia, aiming to facilitate translational research – the process of generating practical applications from discoveries made in the laboratory.

The program will work through the education and mentoring of research staff and the successful advancement of translational research in medical and health devices, therapeutics and diagnostics for the clinical setting.

UTS Science and the Kolling Institute will collaborate to further develop and fund their science, health and medical researchers who have a good commercial or translatable idea but have not been able to move it outside the laboratory.

"Traditional research funding models are highly bureaucratic, lengthy and competitive processes," said SPARK Sydney Director, UTS's Professor Michael Wallach.

"The difficulty of securing funding for some truly creative ideas and the lack of fundamental understanding of collaboration between academia and industry has led us to try something different.

"We need new paradigms for how we structure our discovery science so that it results in more research outcomes making it to market," he said.

Kolling Institute Director and Co-Director of SPARK Sydney, Professor Jonathan Morris, said the questions being answered by health research needed to be driven by what will help patients and be relevant in the community.

"SPARK Sydney will deliver a collaborative, interactive model where clinicians and scientists will learn more about what it takes to ensure their innovations lead to new therapeutics, diagnostics and devices," he said.

SPARK Sydney plans to fund several research projects at up to $40,000 over two years. Projects will be selected by the SPARK Sydney management committee and then research teams will pitch their ideas to a panel of mentors and industry professionals.

"The goal of this program is to help develop our capacity as innovators and entrepreneurs in the health and medical biotechnology and biosciences area," said Professor Wallach.

"Our colleagues at Stanford University have been doing something similar for the past eight years with outstanding results and we feel Sydney researchers have the means and the strengths to follow the Stanford model," he said.

SPARK Sydney will emulate the successful SPARK program run at Stanford University Medical School, whilst working within and capitalising on the areas of recognised expertise at UTS Science and the Kolling Institute.

"SPARK Sydney will provide the Kolling Institute with an opportunity to live its vision of uniting health research and education with patient care and community wellbeing that delivers constant innovation across all areas of health care and the health system," said Professor Morris.

Health and Science