Applications are now open for Westpac’s annual Innovation Challenge, which is this year looking for startups to pitch their ideas for the next big innovation in healthcare. Winners will receive $40,000 in funding to develop their solutions, along with support from Westpac and BlueChilli to help take their business off the ground.
Westpac’s head of healthcare Leon Berkovich said the Innovation Challenge is part of Westpac’s commitment to help make Australian businesses stronger.
“With the percentage of older Australians increasing rapidly, we expect to see continued growth in the healthcare sector as it looks to meet ever increasing demands. This growth also presents immense opportunities for innovation through disruptive technology and business improvement that will make the sector stronger for the future,” he said.
This year the Innovation Challenge is looking for entrepreneurs who have developed ideas and technologies to assist with improved management and use of patient data, ideas that improve practice management, ways to reduce duplication and improve efficiencies in any area of healthcare, and provision of more efficient healthcare models using digital technologies, education, skills and learning.
Australia has a long history of healthcare collaboration and has been at the forefront of medical innovation. Throughout the 1930s and 40s Australian-born scientist Howard Florey worked on creating the first penicillin-based antibiotic medicines. In 1978 Professor Graeme Clark performed the world’s first cochlear implant operation to assist the hearing impaired and more recently Professor Fiona Wood developed spray on skin for burns patients.
The challenge now for Australia is to find ways of utilising technology to greater assist the administration of medicine and to improve the levels of care for people outside the hospital.
“We’re calling on Australia’s best and brightest to put their minds to developing the next big thing for this vital part of our economy,” said Berkovich.
Five finalists will be chosen to pitch to a panel of leading business representatives who will decide the overall winner. Along with $40,000 in prize money, a $5,000 reward will be given to the finalist based on popular vote.
The top five startups will receive intensive pitch training and business advice from the BlueChilli team prior to pitching their ideas to the Westpac Digital and Innovation Teams.
The winner will also have the opportunity to meet with BlueChilli to discuss a placement in BlueChilli’s accelerator program for further development of their idea over a six month period. This may also include a consideration for an additional $25,000 in investment funding.
Sebastien Eckersley-Maslin, CEO of BlueChilli, said there are many opportunities for entrepreneurs to develop solutions using technologies like AI, chat bots, identity management and data security.
Now in its third round with Westpac, the Innovation Challenge usually sees a mix of applications split across concept only, early prototypes and young startups. With the winner receiving a cash prize, the Innovation Challenge is seeking startups who are looking to augment their seed investment with extra cash-flow and corporate relationships to get them to sustainable sales.
To apply for the Innovation Challenge startups don’t need to be a healthcare startup specifically, but must have an idea that relates to or can be used in context to healthcare to increase productivity or enhance patient care.
The application of technology in the healthcare sector gives patients more choice on how they consume healthcare, along with providing more efficient ways to access quality levels of care by lowering the cost of traditional forms of care.
Last year healthtech startups were urged by the NSW Government to come up with health driven innovations to combat mental illness. The government showed its support to the startup community through a $4 million Mental Health Innovation Fund.
With more light shed on this sector the possibilities technology has to find more innovative solutions to healthcare are increasing. This year already there have been healthcare with challenges, demo days and hackathons all looking for new healthtech solutions to disrupt and innovate the healthcare industry.
In April Australia saw its first ever hackathon Mind Hack, focusing on solutions for chronic pain and mental health. Earlier this year social enterprise accelerator also announced its investment in its first healthtech startup and HCF’s Catalyst continues to drive Australia’s health sector forward through its partnership with Slingshot and annual healthtech accelerators.
Now more than ever before consumers are demanding integrated and fluid care, but the problem is that healthcare is spread across many services who operate in isolation from one another. This isolation results in an inefficient and possible duplication in patient data, service processes and administrative costs.
Increasing productivity in healthcare will not just result in economic improvement in healthcare, but will also deliver a greater user experiences for consumers. BlueChilli believes that by linking enhancements in data integration to third-party people will start seeing a very different future in healthcare.
Eckersley-Maslin said, “In Australia we are lucky to have some of the smartest scientist and entrepreneurs developing innovations that will fundamentally and dramatically change how we manage our health in the digital world.”
Image: 2015 Innovation Challenge winners Agtasker. Source: BlueChilli Website.