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Science Group Boosts 'Profitable' Medical Research

A group of New Zealand researchers has banded together to push along research that will capitalise on the profitable worldwide medical technology market.

Innovative Healthcare Technologies grew out of a desire by researchers, users and makers of healthcare technologies to further their areas of interest in New Zealand, says Howell Round, the incorporated society's president.

Members include universities, hospitals and commercial companies.

Dr Round, chairperson of the Physics and Electronic Engineering Department at the University of Waikato, says healthcare technologies of interest to the group are products and techniques based on the physical sciences and engineering technologies.

"We're talking about equipment - machines, software, methods, mathematics - based around engineering, physics and mathematics," he says.

The society aims to be recognised as the body representing innovative healthcare technology research, development and manufacturing groups in New Zealand.

"We intend to take a lead in getting funding for research and development in healthcare technologies," Dr Round says. "We also intend to help members collaborate in high-quality, science-based research and development.”

He says the society will help the transfer of healthcare technologies developed by members, to those who can commercialise them, "and to those whose health and wellbeing will directly benefit from their application".

Dr Round says the opportunity to do all this arose from the Government's Foresight Project.

"This aimed to change the direction of research in science from being based around providing funding for specific research projects. It was to be redirected to funding research on the basis of how well it contributed to achieving desired outcomes for society.”

He says it was apparent a year ago that any sector wanting to get Government research support should have a plan for combining the expertise of researchers, manufacturers and users.

"This led to a meeting of researchers from Auckland, Waikato and Canterbury universities and Canterbury Health to map out how to develop medical physics/biomedical engineering research and manufacturing in New Zealand.”

Already, the society has contributed to the development of the Ministry of Research, Science and Technology's Medical and Health Industries strategic portfolio outline, which sets out a direction for medical technology research. As well, it has added its weight to applications for funding from the New Economy Research Fund and the Marsden Fund.

It is also forming a strategy for the development of health technology research and commercialisation in New Zealand, with Technology New Zealand investment.

"Healthcare technology is huge worldwide, with plenty of opportunities for niche market, high-value products," Dr Round says. "This will help harness all that talent we have here - there are 65 projects going on right now with a potential value of millions.”

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