The HealthTech Activator is a coordinated, ecosystem-wide support mechanism for early-stage founders and companies in NZ’s healthtech sector.
The Activator makes it easier for healthtech companies to find and access the support they need to turn their health innovations into successful businesses. In doing so, it aims to advance, de-risk and accelerate the commercialisation of innovation in NZ’s healthtech ecosystem.
From Fisher & Paykel Healthcare’s famed ‘preserving-jar’ humidifier prototype, to Colin Murdoch’s invention of the disposable syringe, NZ has an impressive heritage when it comes to healthtech innovation.
Today, healthtech firms rank among some of NZ's most globally successful businesses and NZ's healthtech sector shows impressive growth potential.
Healthtech firms accounted for 11% of our top 200 technology businesses in 2019. In the 2020-21 financial year, healthtech firms generated an estimated $2.85 billion in revenue, demonstrating a seven-year compound annual growth rate of 13%.
Healthtech innovators, however, face some unique challenges on the path to commercialisation. These include stringent regulatory and clinical trial requirements, higher capital needs and longer commercialisation pathways.
And importantly, these needs haven’t typically been well catered for by existing, generalised business interventions and advice.
To meet these challenges, Callaghan Innovation and the Consortium for Medical Device Technologies (CMDT) and MedTech CoRE, with support from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE), have developed the HealthTech Activator.
The Activator aims to deliver improved connectivity, and more seamless funding and capability-building programmes and services, for New Zealand healthtech businesses.
The HealthTech Activator also supports the implementation of the Ministry of Health’s New Zealand Health Research Strategy 2017–2027, by supporting transformative and innovative ideas in the health sector.
Commercialisation opportunities in healthtech spring from many sources: from scientists undertaking research in our universities and Crown Research Institutes, to clinicians working in our hospitals, to entrepreneurs who recognise an unmet need but who may have a limited healthcare background.
Opportunities can also present themselves at all development stages in our healthtech ecosystem: from a clinician with the kernel of an idea for a business, to an established company with products or services already in-market.
Could your business benefit from the HealthTech Activator?
The HealthTech Activator provides healthtech innovators and early-stage businesses access to programmes and services targeted to their needs. The Activator’s aim is to provide a wraparound service, no matter where you are on your innovation journey.
Callaghan Innovation will also encourage the co-location of emerging healthtech businesses to aid their development.
So, you’re an entrepreneur, clinician or scientist with a smart healthtech idea. What next?
How do you find out if there’s a market for that idea or what funding and capability support is available, or find funders who might back your idea?
The Healthtech Activator can help.
We can provide access to the advice, education, services and support you need, including:
Firstly, Callaghan Innovation gave us the flexibility to commit to development activity to get us started, and secondly it allowed us to put our money into areas that would make us successful.
Entrepreneur Brian Ward had a great healthtech business idea: to meet growing international interest in using biological materials for soft-tissue repair by creating products based on high-quality source materials readily available through NZ’s primary industry sector.
He eventually found a suitable raw material source – in sheeps’ stomachs – from which a high-quality biomaterial could potentially be made.
The problem was that Brian, although trained in science, was not working in this field and couldn’t develop the material himself.
So, in true tech-company fashion, he employed a weightless business model by tapping into the healthtech ecosystem. His firm – Aroa Biosurgery – rented lab space at an IRL (now Callaghan Innovation) facility and contracted scientists from the organisation to do initial development work.
Aroa was also able to secure crucial funding through the ecosystem, attracting early-stage venture capital investment from Movac, Sparkbox, Cure Kids Ventures and K1W1, and accessing Callaghan Innovation grants to fund specific R&D projects.
Flashforward around 12 years, Aroa has regulatory approval for its products, credible partners in the world’s largest healthcare market – the US – and employs more than 100 staff.
Crucially, those previously low-value sheep stomachs are being put to good use – providing the source material for Aroa’s high-tech wound-care products that bring relief to patients suffering from typically hard-to-treat wounds, such as diabetic ulcers.
Callaghan Innovation has seriously accelerated our company development by connecting us to experts in our medical field in product and intellectual property development and commercialisation.
Associate Professor Greg O’Grady is a surgeon and a researcher. He’s also an entrepreneur.
In 2017, O’Grady co-founded The Insides Company – alongside fellow colorectal surgeon Professor Ian Bissett, and engineers Rob and John Davidson – to develop medical devices for bowel cancer surgery and recovery.
The medical devices developed by The Insides Company, of which O’Grady is Chief Scientific Officer, dramatically reduce the time until patients can fully use their guts again following bowel surgery, resulting in significant health benefits and reductions in clinical complications such as dehydration and infection.
The Insides Company builds on research conducted by O’Grady at the University of Auckland Medical School, and was spun out as a company with translational research support from the MedTech Centre of Research Excellence and with assistance from the university’s commercialisation arm, UniServices.
The firm has also received support from Callaghan Innovation, including Project Grant funding and access to innovation skills via the Innovation IP programme.
In 2019 the firm’s commercialisation progress really ramped up by further tapping into the healthtech ecosystem. It appointed experienced entrepreneur Garth Sutherland as CEO, and its devices gained entry into the US Food and Drug Administration’s Breakthrough Devices regulatory pathway – giving it the opportunity to significantly reduce its time to market in the US.
It also successfully gained funding from the New Zealand angel investment community, raising a total of $4.3 million from the likes of Icehouse Ventures, K1W1, UniServices, Eden Ventures and NZVIF.
And that commercialisation momentum created by tapping into the healthtech ecosystem matters – ultimately advancing the opportunities for human health benefits, and to tangibly change people’s lives for the better.
Callaghan Innovation is leading the HealthTech Activator, working closely with the Consortium for Medical Device Technologies.
The Consortium for Medical Device Technologies (CMDT) was established to help grow the medical device industry in NZ. The CMDT is a single point of contact for NZ's capability and resources in MedTech. It is a national resource linking research activities at NZ universities and Crown Research Institutes (CRIs) and agencies with companies, healthcare providers, regulatory and industry bodies, the Health Innovation Hub, and the Commercialisation Partner Networks.