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Healthcare-Centric Rostering Service Wins Velocity $100k Challenge

A software platform designed to produce the perfect hospital staffing roster won the 2020 Velocity $100k Challenge at the University of Auckland Business School last night.

Created by students and alumni from the University of Auckland, RosterLab, a healthcare-centric rostering service provider, uses state-of-the-art artificial intelligence, nicknamed ROMEO (rostering machine and expert organiser) to build the ideal rosters for hospitals.

Founded by doctoral engineering science student Isaac Cleland, and assisted by finance and economics student Daniel Ge and alumna Sunny Feng, ROMEO has been in development for the last three years.

L-R: Rosterlab team members Sunny Feng, Daniel Ge, and Isaac Cleland, with Will Charles, Executive Director of Commercialisation at UniServices

Taking into account variables such as staff skills and satisfaction, legal obligations, patient demand and the need for Covid-19 bubbles, ROMEO automatically creates contract-compliant, safe and efficient rosters.

The Velocity $100k Challenge is the flagship competition within Velocity, New Zealand’s leading university entrepreneurship development programme. Delivered by the University of Auckland Business School’s Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Velocity is now in its 17th year. It has a legacy of opening up limitless opportunities and identifying the entrepreneurs and change-makers of the future.

Participants enter with an idea for a problem to solve: a social issue, an environmental problem, a market opportunity, or one based on their university research. Teams pitch their ideas to judges from within New Zealand’s entrepreneurial ecosystem who decide which ideas display the potential to fly.

From an initial 80 entries, teams were narrowed down to five categories (Overall winner, Runner-up, New Venture Category winner, Social Category winner, and University Research Category winner), to receive a share of a $100,000 prize pool and a place in the six-month VentureLab incubator this coming summer.

Isaac, who will complete his PhD in engineering science in a few months, has written his thesis on using novel column generation algorisms to create staff rosters automatically.

“To win $15,000 plus have mentoring and a place to work for six months is a tremendous prize to get Rosterlab off the ground,” says Isaac. “The health industry is huge, but ROMEO could easily be applied to other industries as well. This web application can automate almost all rostering processes.”

Wendy Kerr, Director, Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, says: “2020 has shown New Zealand that we were not prepared for such major economic disruption. Many companies thriving prior to April were unable to withstand the impact of Covid-19. Downsizing, restructuring and resultant job losses have become the norm. However, the high talent and potential ideas represented at Velocity give us all confidence that we can find a way out. Their ideas coupled with an entrepreneurial mind-set will create new economic and social opportunities, and be part of the country’s rejuvenation.”

2020 Velocity entrepreneurship challenge winners

Overall winner – Rosterlab
RosterLab uses state-of-the-art artificial intelligence techniques to build exceptional rosters for hospital staff, much more quickly than is possible by hand. With a simple-to-use web application for roster creation and associated staff phone app, we can automate almost all of the rostering process.

Runner-up – Ūkaipō
Ūkaipō will provide an educational voice that will bring about the revitalisation and strengthening of the experience and connection of the placenta burial practice through their Rau Whenua package. This provides not only the mothers themselves, however their future generations to come, with an incredible, beautiful and connection building tradition.

New Venture Category winner – Nikau Robotics
Nikau Robotics is stepping up to the challenge of the construction industry. They have developed an on-site manufacturing tool that automates woodworking. Nikau Robotics are making automated construction accessible to small businesses that have previously been excluded from these technological advancements.

Social Category winner – Kiwrious
Kiwrious believe that science is fun, creative and social and we help students experience this for themselves. Kiwrious is a low cost sensor kit that empowers students to engage in scientific inquiries in and out of school.

University Research Category winner – FishBox
The marine life around New Zealand is a priceless commodity, yet both the people in the fishing industry and those that police the fishing industry use inefficient manual processes to measure and classify hauls of fish. FishBox is a modern solution for efficient management of this precious resource.

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