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Chch ‘Batting above Weight’ with World-leading health tech

The world’s first water-proof prosthetic hand, state-of-the-art hip and knee joint surgery devices and an innovative injury-prevention patient lift system – they’re just three of many recent, exciting health technology inventions developed by Christchurch companies and showcased at a special meeting in the city tonight.

“Most New Zealanders have no idea that as a city, Christchurch well and truly bats above its weight in terms of creating, developing and manufacturing medical devices and technologies which are making a huge splash internationally, helping to significantly improve patient lives the world over” says Iain McMillan, Chief Executive of orthopaedic medical device company Enztec, which exports 98% of its products.

This growing reputation of Christchurch as a health tech ‘centre of emerging excellence’ has led Enztec to help form a new group, Canterbury Health Innovation (CHI), to connect and inspire the city’s health tech innovators. Tonight will be CHI’s fourth event, attended by around 50 of the city’s medical tech leaders, from the fields of design, manufacturing, tertiary education, research, council and government.

“We created CHI because we saw a need to showcase the extraordinary array of health tech talent on offer in Christchurch” says McMillan. “The regular group meetings are fast becoming a wonderful forum to showcase the many fascinating developments going on in the city right now as well as being a means of helping attract new investment and talent. We believe that by greater collaboration and sharing of knowledge we can all collectively gain and learn from each other”.

The Canterbury Employers Chamber of Commerce (CECC) believes CHI is a valuable forum for the city’s business growth.

“Christchurch is well-known for its hi-tech sector and in particular how tech is being used in the health industry” says CECC Chief Executive Leeann Watson. “ Many of these businesses are not only leaders in their sector in Aotearoa New Zealand but also on the global stage. With the medical hi-tech sector contributing significantly to our economy, it’s pleasing to see a forum dedicated to active collaboration and growth within this area, and the promotion of positive economic and social outcomes”.

Tonight’s event will focus on Advanced Medical Manufacturing and feature three speakers, all from Christchurch companies whose inventions are gaining international attention.

Iain McMillan will discuss the latest successes from Enztec, which designs, manufactures and exports high-end medical instruments to the world’s leading orthopaedic implant companies, specialising in vital componentry to make hip and knee replacement surgery faster, easier and safer for hundreds of thousands of patients worldwide. Launched in 1992, Enztec started life with one surgeon and an enthusiastic toolmaker to now employ 64 staff – a 20% increase in the past year since moving into a 2000 square metre purpose-built facility in Middleton, increasing both plant and output.

Keith Alexander, designer of the globally successful Springfree trampoline, will speak about HT Systems’ new invention which is set to revolutionise the care of the elderly and immobile worldwide - the Kera Patient Transfer system. Having made its first sale in July this year, the mechanical design of the Kera patient aid significantly reduces the weight and load placed on nursing staff and caregivers when lifting and moving patients from bed to chair and beyond. Supported by the University of Canterbury, its taken two decades to perfect the aid’s design and simplicity. This vital piece of equipment has the ability to significantly reduce the numerous strain injuries currently experienced by NZ healthcare workers when moving heavy and immobile patients.

Mat Jury from Christchurch’s Taska Prosthetics will also discuss the growing commercial success of the Taska hand, a revolutionary waterproof prosthetic device– a global first. Not only does the $35,000 dollar prosthesis allow amputees to adopt, for the first time, simple daily tasks such as washing, eating and watering the garden, but is hardier, with better shock absorption and increased dust-resistance than competitor models, enabling amputees to simply do more.

“These are just some of the exciting and inspiring health tech inventions being developed here which many locals may be unaware of” says Iain McMillan. “All are helping build Christchurch’s emerging post-quake business reputation and boosting not just our export success, but our ability to attract and retain the cleverest minds in tech design, manufacturing ad innovation”.

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