In the second part of the interview with Ms Tamsin Greulich-Smith, we learn about how the Centre applies the principle of human-centric design. The Centre is working on an integrated care pilot project in collaboration with Lions Befrienders, a voluntary welfare organisation, which provides friendship and care for seniors to age in place, as well as Yishun Community Hospital and Allied World Healthcare.
The project aims to transition senior citizens back into the community more quickly after a hospital stay and in a way that allows them to look after themselves better when they are discharged, through integrating them with community services.
The question being explored in the project is: Can a personal artificial intelligence (AI) device encourage seniors to look after themselves better.
The elderly can get socially isolated when they live alone, and then they may stop caring for themselves.
Ms Greulich-Smith explained, “Some seniors can start to give up, when they live alone. They don’t bother to go out because they may have lost confidence or lost purpose. Then they may get a little depressed, which can result in them losingtheir appetite and stop eating so well. Their health suffers. They might stop taking their medication or get confused. They get anxious about various things, which can affect the quality of their health.”
The AI device can help remind the senior citizens about different things, designed to encourage them to take better care of themselves. It can prompt them to eat, reminding them to start the day with breakfast, for example. It can prompt them to exercise or complete their rehabilitation exercises. It also reminds them to take their medication and encourages them to join daily activities for seniors in their local Senior Activity Centres. The system also integrates with Lions Befrienders Silver Bow campaign, which sends seniors messages from members of the community. Ultimately, through this range of engagement, the seniors might form a relationship with the technology, if it is designed correctly.
This pilot is a rolling programme of onboarding patients, based on when the patients are ready to be discharged from the hospital. The patients who seem viable to take part in the pilot are asked if they are interested. If the answer is in the affirmative, then Lions Befrienders step in to explain the project to them and assess them for their suitability. The patients are assessed over a 4-week period while they are in the hospital. Once they are discharged, and the consents completed, the technology is placed in their home which comprises a dashboard providing a shared patient view and the aforementioned AI device for some of them.
The human-centric approach in practice
In this project, the Centre has tried to adopt the human-centric approach advocated by Ms Greulich-Smith. And the results have been illuminating.
The Centre held a design workshop for seniors, in their 80s and 90s, to get their inputs for an artificial intelligence (AI) device to be placed in their homes. The team had the basic device, as in an unadorned version of the device, to help the seniors understand how to interact with it. The workshop also explored various design options with the seniors, to either conceal or otherwise improve the appearance of the device.
Prior to the workshop, most of the professionals working with the seniors had assumed that the seniors would not want the ‘ugly’ unadorned technology in their house. They would want it to be camouflaged. But the seniors chose the raw technology!
They had a pragmatic attitude. Their primary concern was that if the voice-activated device is placed inside something else, it won’t hear them so well. ‘I don’t want anything to possibly prevent the technology from hearing my voice’.
The second reason for their choice was a sense of pride in having this modern technology in their home. The device would become an attention grabber, as neighbours popping in asked about the device.
“So we cannot make assumptions about people’s motivations, desires and concerns. The design process is important because it stops us making assumptions, and helps us improve the impact of our solutions” Ms Greulich-Smith said.
In order to quickly prototype a model in the first stage, an off-the-shelf device was used for the AI component. Though there were concerns that the off-the-shelf device was not doing a lot of the things the seniors want or require. For instance, the device doesn’t speak or understand Hokkien or Singlish. Which requires the project team to find seniors who can speak English, and there aren’t so many of them. And if they do speak English, their accent isn’t easily understood by the device. However, the flaws in the off-the-shelf solution need not be cause for concern.
“I said, well I think that’s fantastic. This is our sacrificial concept. This means that we are creating this very long list of things we will design out in our own model during subsequent phases,” Ms Greulich-Smith said.
She explained that the key thing about prototyping is having the bravery to welcome failure and make the list of failings as long as possible. Because the longer it is the better the design will be in the next phase. The aim is to learn from the positives as well as the negatives.
In addition, the team observed that the seniors are loving having this this technology in spite of all the flaws. So, if those failings can be designed out, the team might have something that the seniors will genuinely start to have a positive relationship with.
“If we scale too soon, we have an expensive mess to fix. But if we just have a small pilot perfectly intended for prototyping and testing, then we are allowed to fail.”
Once the team has robust evidence that the approach is working, then they will seek funding either through their own institute or through a grant-funding body to explore scaling up. At the moment, the project is focused on one geographical area and patients from one community hospital. It could be
expanded across the island and to more community hospitals. Taking a different tack, acute care hospitals could also be considered which present a very different situation.
In the second phase, the team will build its own AI device tailored to meet the needs of Singaporean seniors living alone at home. This will be based on the learnings from phase 1.
Ms Greulich-Smith said, “Our plan is to have an opportunity to eventually, nationally scale part of that model, if not all of it.”
There might be privacy concerns and challenges once the project is scaled up. At the moment, it is explained to the seniors that the data is only used within the project and it is not shared. In the next phase, researchers might give the seniors a download of the questions they have asked and let them remove anything they don’t want others to see.
The shared patient view is used as a collaboration and engagement tool, for caregivers and next of kin to monitor their condition and check things like if they are having their meals on time. So, it is important for the seniors to understand that this information is being shared and to get their consent for who has access to the data.
With such challenges, the Centre’s approach is to explore them with a small group and spend time in understanding the issues as thoroughly as possible, and then responding to the issues that arise in an agile way.
A blossoming innovation hub
We brought up the topic of other similar projects in Singapore to help seniors age in place, some involving AI as well.
Ms Greulich-Smith reacted saying it’s wonderful. “It’s what we need. We need an island full of innovation, people experimenting and ex
ploring. That is really what is going to start to find the breakthrough solutions.”
“As soon we start trying to control that too much, we will lose the innovation culture. At the moment, Singapore is really blossoming as an innovation hub.”
She added that the Centre is always willing to share its findings and help other organisations with whatever projects they are conducting.
The Centre actively undertakes projects with different partners, and seeks opportunities to cross-fertilise across them. For the integrated care pilot, subsequent phases could see the Centre trialling adapted approaches with different partners to explore improvements and challenges in different settings. Over time, more partners are brought in to enhance the offering. The entire development process is collaboration-driven.
“Let’s see what we can learn by all of us exploring in different ways. Because there’s no one answer to the complex problems in healthcare,” she concluded.
Senior Minister of State Dr Janil Puthucheary expressed his appreciation for the Singtel Cyber ELEVATE programme, highlighting its focus on bolstering cyber resilience among Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). This initiative demonstrates the importance of collective efforts in nurturing a strong cybersecurity ecosystem.
SMS Janil emphasised the critical role cybersecurity plays in realising Singapore’s Smart Nation vision. Trust in digitalisation and technology is paramount for individuals, businesses, and the nation as a whole. Maintaining this trust hinges on robust cybersecurity measures, as one breach can erode confidence and deter digital adoption.
The article underscores the significance of cybersecurity for businesses, both large corporations and SMEs. Just as individuals rely on technology for convenience and efficiency, companies harness digitalisation to reduce costs and explore new opportunities. However, poor cybersecurity can undermine trust, dissuading customers and employees from engaging with a business’s digital tools.
While SMEs may perceive cybersecurity as a daunting challenge due to limited resources, they possess an advantage in their relatively smaller attack surface. Implementing basic cybersecurity measures, such as antivirus software and data backups, can significantly improve their security posture. The government, through the Cyber Security Agency (CSA), offers resources and support to help SMEs enhance their cybersecurity.
The article also highlights CSA’s Chief Information Security Officers (CISOs)-as-a-Service scheme, which provides SMEs with funding support and tailored cybersecurity plans. The Cyber Essential and Cyber Trust marks, part of a certification scheme, enable organisations to demonstrate their commitment to cybersecurity, differentiating them in the market.
SMS Janil encourages businesses to adopt these cybersecurity initiatives, emphasising that cybersecurity is a collective effort that involves the government, industry, and the community. The Singtel Cyber ELEVATE Programme is cited as a prime example of such collaborative efforts. The programme offers workshops and incident response assistance to SMEs, with substantial funding support through SSG grants.
By stressing that cybersecurity is fundamental for Singapore’s digitalisation journey and calling on all stakeholders to contribute to strengthening the nation’s cyber defences. The Minister emphasises that active participation and commitment to cybersecurity are essential for collective advancement and a secure digital future.
Further, OpenGov Asia recently reported that the enduring warmth between Singapore and Canada finds new purpose in their robust bilateral cooperation, now extending to the realm of cybersecurity through the renewed Canada-Singapore Cybersecurity Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). This partnership underscores the paramount importance of a secure cyberspace.
One key aspect of this agreement is the facilitated exchange of critical cybersecurity information, enabling both nations to swiftly share threat intelligence, indicators, and best practices. This real-time sharing equips them to respond effectively to emerging cyber threats.
Also, the MoU places a strong emphasis on skill development, recognising the rapidly evolving nature of cybersecurity. By investing in the growth of their cybersecurity professionals, Canada and Singapore ensure they stay well-prepared and up-to-date with the latest techniques and technologies, fortifying their cyber defences.
Capacity building is another significant facet of the MoU. It empowers both nations to develop the necessary capabilities for rapid cyber incident response, including tools, processes, and expertise.
Beyond national borders, this collaboration has global implications, strengthening both countries’ positions in international cybersecurity discussions and partnerships. It underscores the importance of international cooperation in addressing the borderless challenge of cybersecurity.
The MoU also protects important assets and business interests in both countries, which is important for keeping the economy stable and safe in today’s digital, interconnected world.
The Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation (HKSTP) has collaborated with an organisation that provides a platform of programs and initiatives aimed at creating one global entrepreneurial ecosystem on a mission to facilitate tech innovators’ access to global growth opportunities while extending Hong Kong’s tech innovation ecosystem to the organisation’s network of 200 markets worldwide.
The organisation is a global community dedicated to fostering cross-border cooperation among tech entrepreneurs, investors, researchers, policymakers, and entrepreneurial support organisations and aims to simplify the process of launching and scaling tech businesses across the globe.
In July 2023, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between the organisation’s Founder and the President and Chairman of HKSTP. It committed both parties to support entrepreneurship in ASEAN countries. To expedite this partnership, HKSTP led a delegation to the organisation’s Global Entrepreneurship Congress 2023 in Melbourne, comprising emerging tech startups and business leaders from Hong Kong.
The delegation represented Hong Kong’s innovation and technology (I&T) ecosystem and explored collaboration prospects with their the organisation counterparts across the globe. This infusion of new talent and tech ventures further reinforces Hong Kong’s ambition to become an international I&T hub, offering opportunities for tech innovators worldwide.
The Chief Corporate Development Officer of HKSTP stated that the Park is strongly committed to elevating collaboration with the worldwide tech innovation community within the framework of its partnership with the organisation. Entrepreneurs globally confront shared obstacles when progressing from the startup phase to scaling their ventures.
Entrepreneurs globally confront shared obstacles when progressing from the startup phase to scaling their ventures. Hong Kong’s exceptional, cohesive innovation ecosystem grants them access to worldwide opportunities in terms of funding, research and development, talent, and market entry. The shared vision revolves around nurturing global innovation and broadening their individual ecosystems to attain unprecedented levels of achievement.
The collaboration between HKSTP and the organisation entails mutual exchange programs and activities aimed at promoting cross-border and cross-sector collaboration, with a specific focus on tech sectors such as Green Tech, Life Sciences, Advanced Manufacturing, SmartCity, Mobility, AI, and Fintech. The organisation’s annual flagship events, including Global Entrepreneurship Week and the Global Entrepreneurship Congress, offer ideal platforms for extending Hong Kong’s I&T ecosystem into new markets.
The delegation engaged with representatives from the Australian startup community, universities, government bodies, and tech investors to further explore tech-related business and collaboration opportunities. Furthermore, the delegation shared experiences and exchanged ideas with Australian tech ventures interested in gaining insights into and exploring the Hong Kong tech market.
HKSTP also introduced its Market Discovery Programme in Hong Kong, specifically targeting enterprises interested in expanding into tech markets in Hong Kong, the Greater Bay Area (GBA), and mainland China. This two-day intensive programme, scheduled for early November 2023, will feature seminars, tours, and networking opportunities designed to connect tech entrepreneurs with experts, investors, corporate leaders, and successful entrepreneurs with experience in expanding their tech businesses within the region. The invitation-only program is offered free of charge, and participants will have the opportunity to experience the InnoCell smart living co-creation space at the Science Park, fostering collaboration with HKSTP’s I&T talents.
OpenGov Asia reported earlier that HKSTP and an American financial services company saw the graduation of over 100 students from the NxTEC (Next Technologist Entrepreneurial Champion) Career Launcher programme.
This highlighted the joint efforts of these organisations to address the growing demand for tech talent in Hong Kong. The graduates completed a rigorous training programme designed to secure job placements at more than 60 HKSTP partner companies. The graduation ceremony, attended by both the graduates and their employers, as well as volunteers from the American financial services company, marked a significant milestone in their journey.
The Department of Telecommunications (DOT), in partnership with the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), will conduct extensive testing of the Cell Broadcast Alert System. This effort is aimed at strengthening emergency communication during disasters and enhancing safety measures to protect the public.
The Cell Broadcast Alert System is an advanced technology that enables authorities to disseminate vital and time-critical disaster management messages to all mobile devices in specific geographic regions. This includes both residents and visitors, ensuring that crucial emergency information reaches as many individuals as possible promptly.
Government agencies and emergency services employ Cell Broadcasts to inform the public about possible threats and deliver vital updates during critical situations. This technology is commonly used for issuing emergency alerts like severe weather warnings (tsunamis, flash floods, earthquakes), public safety notifications, evacuation instructions, and other critical information.
The Cell Broadcast Alert System will undergo rigorous testing with multiple telecom service providers. These tests will be conducted periodically in various regions across the country to evaluate the emergency alert broadcasting capabilities of different mobile operators and cell broadcast systems for efficiency and effectiveness. As part of this endeavour, tests are being conducted in different states across India, with Punjab being the next state on the testing schedule for 29 September.
In a press release, DOT said that it is responsible for formulating developmental policies to accelerate the growth of the telecommunications sector in India. “Our mission is to ensure access to affordable and effective telecommunications services for all citizens while promoting innovation and safeguarding national security interests.”
The proliferation of digitalisation in both service and manufacturing domains has ushered in a global transformation. In recent years, the demand for digital connectivity has grown, and this vital role was highlighted during the pandemic, when there was a surge in demand across user segments, regardless of their geographical locations.
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has been overseeing the quality of telecom services nationwide through comprehensive studies and by issuing directives to stakeholders to improve facilities. Although there have been notable enhancements in the coverage of telecom services outdoors, there are still gaps in meeting the expected quality of service within buildings, whether they are residential or commercial areas.
Ensuring the quality of telecommunication services within buildings is a vital aspect of safeguarding consumer interests. TRAI has already implemented several policy initiatives, including the Recommendation issued on 20 February 2023, regarding the “Rating of Buildings or Areas for Digital Connectivity.” These recommendations establish an introduction for building ratings, aiming to deliver a satisfactory digital connectivity experience to consumers through a collaborative and self-sustainable approach.
To establish a regulatory framework, TRAI has indicated in its observations that it intends to develop the necessary regulations for the Rating of Buildings. It recently issued a consultation paper titled “Regulation on Rating Framework for Digital Connectivity in Buildings or Areas.” It deliberates on the regulatory measures needed to implement a rating framework.
The paper underscores the necessity of a rating system that not only caters to the current consumer expectations but is also adaptable for future expansion and upgrades. It should allow for evolving technologies and shifts in user demands. The paper also explores the benefits of a rating framework for end-users, service providers, and the broader ecosystem.
The consultation paper provides an overview of the ‘Rating Framework for Digital Connectivity’ based on international practices and existing rating frameworks such as GRIHA or Credit Rating in India. The consultation paper along with draft regulations have been uploaded to TRAI’s website, seeking inputs from the stakeholders and telecom consumers. Written comments will be accepted by 10 November and counter-comments by 24 November.
The National Cyber and Crypto Agency of the Republic of Indonesia (BSSN RI), in a joint effort with 18 Regional Governments (Pemda), has embarked on a collaborative initiative. Their objective is to safeguard the integrity and sovereignty of the nation against an array of cyber threats that have become increasingly prevalent in today’s digital landscape. To formalise this commitment and ensure a unified front in addressing cyber threats, they signed a Cooperation Agreement (PKS) focused on utilising Electronic Certificates.
Through Presidential Regulation Number 95 of 2018 concerning the Electronic-Based Government System (SPBE), the government strives to realise clean, effective, transparent, and accountable governance and quality and reliable public services. Therefore, implementing SPBE as a form of digital transformation is a necessity carried out by every government institution.
The Chief Secretary of BSSN, Susilo Wibowo, conveyed that BSSN, through the Electronic Certification Institute (BSrE), provides electronic certification services to support information security in e-government implementation.
“At present, BSrE has been officially designated as an Electronic Certification Authority for Agencies based on the Recognition Decree Number 103 of 2022 from the Ministry of Communication and Informatics of the Republic of Indonesia,” he stated.
Furthermore, Susilo explained that by using electronic certificates in Electronic Signature services, BSrE builds trust by providing three aspects of information security based on asymmetric cryptography systems: authentication assurance, integrity assurance, and non-repudiation assurance.
“With the use of TTE, in addition to security aspects, it is hoped to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of bureaucratic processes, thereby creating easily accessible, fast, and straightforward public services in data processing, as well as the availability of accurate data,” he elaborated.
It should also be noted that as the Single Agency for Electronic Certification Providers, BSrE BSSN has the responsibility to provide electronic certificate services to meet the needs of 5.2 million government employees, military personnel and police officers. As of September 25, 2023, BSrE has issued over 335,000 electronic certificates integrated into 967 electronic systems.
Susilo envisioned that the 18 Regional Governments present and BSrE BSSN can implement the agreed-upon points with full commitment to realising work effectiveness, integrated work patterns, sustainability, and the successful utilisation of electronic certificates in the future.
The meeting was attended by the Regent, Mayor, Regional Secretary, Head of the Regional Information and Communication Agency, and officials from both Regional Governments and BSSN.
The 18 Regional Governments (Pemda) involved in the PKS are the North Sulawesi Provincial Government, Bandar Lampung City Government, Bungo Regency Government, South Buton Regency Government, Cirebon Regency Government, Garut Regency Government, Gayo Lues Regency Government, Katingan Regency Government, Lebak Regency Government, Merauke Regency Government, South Nias Regency Government, Parigi Moutong Regency Government, West Pasaman Regency Government, Sleman Regency Government, Sumedang Regency Government, Sukoharjo Regency Government, Raja Ampat Regency Government, and Tanah Bumbu Regency Government.
It marks the seriousness of BSSN in its commitment to fostering not only the security of the nation but also the efficiency and effectiveness of government operations. The collaboration with 18 Regional Governments underscores the collective effort to strengthen the cybersecurity infrastructure, ensuring it remains robust in the face of evolving cyber threats.
The Centre for Responsible Artificial Intelligence (CeRAI) at the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras (IIT-Madras) has announced its collaboration with a prominent private telecommunications company for joint research endeavours in the realm of Responsible AI.
The private company entered into an agreement to become a Platinum Consortium Member of CeRAI for five years. Under this partnership, it will provide support and actively participate in all research initiatives carried out by CeRAI. AI research is of high importance to the telecommunications company, given that AI algorithms will play a crucial role in the autonomous operation of 6G networks.
6G and future networks aim to seamlessly integrate the physical and digital realms, facilitating immersive AR/VR experiences. With AI-managed sensors bridging the gap between humans and machines, responsible AI practices become imperative to uphold trust, fairness, and privacy compliance. The focus of the project revolves around pioneering advanced techniques that augment trust and transparency in AI algorithms for the greater benefit of the public. The partnership aligns with the government’s vision for the Bharat 6G programme.
An official noted that future networks will facilitate easier access to high-performing AI systems. It is imperative to embed responsible AI principles right from the inception of these systems. Many critical applications will be deployed on mobile phones and other devices through these networks. New research is required to ensure that AI models and their predictions are explainable and to provide performance guarantees that align with the applications they serve.
IIT-Madras held a Symposium on Responsible AI for Networks of the Future to commemorate the partnership. It brought together officials from the private company and IIT-Madras to engage in discussions about advancements and innovations for responsible AI. According to an official from IIT-Madras, research in AI will produce the tools necessary for running future businesses. IIT-Madras is committed to conducting impactful translational research in partnership with industry stakeholders. During the symposium some of the current research activities being carried out at CeRAI were showcased, including:
Project on Large-Language Models in Healthcare:
It identifies biases shown by these models, develops scoring methods to assess their practicality in real-world applications, and mitigates biases within LLMs. Custom-scoring methods are being crafted based on the Risk Management Framework (RMF) outlined by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), a U.S. federal agency dedicated to advancing measurement science and standards.
Project on Participatory AI:
It addresses the black-box nature of AI across different stages, including the pre-development, design, development and training, deployment, post-deployment, and audit stages. Drawing inspiration from fields like urban planning and forest rights, the project studies governance mechanisms that empower stakeholders to offer valuable insights to improve the accuracy and reliability of AI and raise concerns about potential adverse effects.
Project on Interpretability of Attention-Based Models:
It delves into the intricacies of generative AI models based on attention mechanisms, which have garnered substantial attention because of their outstanding performance in tasks like machine translation, image summarisation, text generation, and healthcare. However, the models are complex and difficult for users to interpret. The project explores the conditions under which these models are accurate but fail to be interpretable, the development of algorithms to enhance their interpretability, and understanding which patterns in the data these models tend to learn.
Digitalisation has resulted in a paradigm shift in the delivery and accessibility of healthcare services. Telehealth programmes, made possible by digital technologies, are linking patients with healthcare practitioners across geographic boundaries. This has been especially helpful in countries such as the Philippines, where distant and underserved areas frequently struggle to get excellent healthcare services.
During the 9th Balik Scientists Programme Annual Convention, Dr Jaime Montoya, Executive Director of the Department of Science and Technology Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (DOST-PCHRD) stated that the biggest impact of digitalisation in the healthcare sector is accelerating universal healthcare where it is a dream that all Filipinos will have access and covered of healthcare.
He added that in terms of universal healthcare, digitalisation is making it simpler to reach out to neglected people and guarantee they receive the necessary healthcare services. Hence, digital tools are bridging the gap between healthcare providers and patients, whether through mobile health apps, remote monitoring devices, or teleconsultations.
He believes that through technology, everything could be easier. He gave the RxBox as an example of connecting Filipinos in remote areas to access health services that could only be seen in the cities. He highlights the prioritisation of the health information system integration in the Philippines with the help of the national ID system to ensure speedier services.
Besides, the integration of digital health records and telemedicine platforms has simplified patient care by allowing healthcare practitioners to quickly access vital information. This not only improves care quality but also leads to better patient outcomes, “This would be accomplished more quickly with the help of our Balik Scientists.”
RxBox is a biomedical device that was made by Filipino researchers from UP Manila and UP Diliman with help from DOST-PCHRD. It can measure a patient’s temperature, blood pressure, heart rate, oxygen saturation, uterine movements, and electrocardiogram readings.
With its easy-to-use layout and high-resolution screen, patients can easily keep an eye on their health and share this information with their healthcare provider. This lets doctors act quickly and cuts down on the need for face-to-face visits.
The RxBox Detection and Communication (RxDETEC) mobile app is built into every device. It can keep and send logs from medical sensors that are connected and information about patients, like their age, gender, and the type of case they are having.
Along with training and orienting staff from COVID-19-selected healthcare facilities and regional or local DoST offices, the RxBox 1000 Project also wants to keep an eye on how health workers use the devices for things like referrals and other telehealth activities.
In addition, DOST Secretary Renato Solidum, Jr stated that digital transformation will affect all industries. The telehealth instrument RxBox has already been applied in the healthcare industry and is being improved.
The Secretary added that six out of ten Filipinos die without ever seeing a doctor. Hence, he has advised that all medical practitioners create telehealth tools such as sensors over the Internet so that patients, particularly those in remote places, can quickly reach medical practitioners.
While issues such as internet connectivity and digital literacy persist, the Philippines is making great progress in utilising digitalisation to promote telemedicine and move towards universal healthcare coverage. This shift is laying the path for a more equal and healthy future for all Filipinos.
With this, Secretary Renato emphasised the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration among Filipino scientists and called for support for research and development. He also stresses the role of the Balik Scientist Programme in nurturing scientific inquiry and driving progress in the country, concluding with a call to continue advancing and thriving on the global stage through science and innovation.
ANSTO has received a substantial allocation of Federal Government funding, marking a significant development in the effort to ensure the continued production of crucial nuclear medicines in Australia. At the Lucas Heights campus of ANSTO, the plans for a state-of-the-art Nuclear Medicine Facility were unveiled by the Minister for Industry and Science. This new facility will replace the ageing Nuclear Medicine Processing and Distribution Facility, which was initially established in 1959 for research purposes.
On a weekly basis, ANSTO plays a pivotal role in producing nuclear medicines that facilitate between 10,000 and 12,000 medical procedures across Australian hospitals and clinics. Over the years, ANSTO has expanded its production capabilities to encompass various nuclear medicines, making it the primary supplier of approximately 75%-80% of nuclear medicines used in Australia. Among the critical substances they produce is molybdenum-99 (Mo-99), dispatched into ANSTO’s Gentech® Generators. Mo-99 naturally decays into technetium-99 (Tc-99m), the most widely used radioisotope in nuclear medicine worldwide.
The Lucas Heights campus of ANSTO houses a nuclear medicine precinct comprising three key facilities: the OPAL multipurpose research reactor, the Molybdenum-99 Manufacturing Facility, and the ageing Nuclear Medicine Processing and Distribution Facility.
Alongside the Minister, the Acting CEO for ANSTO expressed his appreciation for the enhanced funding aimed at securing Australia’s sovereign capabilities in domestic nuclear medicine manufacturing. He emphasised that the new Nuclear Medicine Facility represents a critical advancement in the technological aspect of nuclear medicine production.
This purpose-built facility will establish a more sophisticated nuclear medicine precinct that streamlines the manufacturing and distribution chain. It is designed to provide ANSTO with the flexibility required to adapt to evolving manufacturing technologies and cater to the changing demands of the radiopharmaceutical market. This flexibility is especially crucial as the rates of diagnosis for illnesses such as cancer continue to rise. Moreover, the facility will empower ANSTO to meet the surging demand for nuclear medicines from hospitals and medical clinics while also capitalizing on ANSTO’s radiopharmaceutical research and development and collaborations within the medical industry.
The current facility, where the final production stage of most of ANSTO’s nuclear medicines occurs before dispatch, is an ageing structure originally constructed as a research laboratory in the late 1950s. Despite extensive renovations and modifications to transform it into a nuclear medicine manufacturing facility, it is nearing the end of its operational lifespan. The funding received will not only support the construction of the new Nuclear Medicine Facility but also facilitate the ongoing maintenance of the existing facility until the new one becomes operational, which is expected in the mid-2030s.
The Federal Government’s allocation of funds to ANSTO represents a significant technological leap forward in ensuring the continued production of life-saving nuclear medicines in Australia. The establishment of the new Nuclear Medicine Facility at the Lucas Heights campus is a critical step toward modernizing the production process, enhancing flexibility, and meeting the growing demand for nuclear medicines while bolstering research and development efforts in the field of radiopharmaceuticals. This investment not only secures Australia’s sovereign capabilities but also reinforces its position in the global nuclear medicine industry.
The Federal Government’s funding allocation for ANSTO’s new Nuclear Medicine Facility at Lucas Heights aligns with Australia’s tech goals by promoting innovation in healthcare technology, fostering collaboration within the medical industry, enhancing sovereign capabilities, and supporting research and development in radiopharmaceuticals.
It also ensures technological resilience, strengthens global competitiveness, and underscores the importance of long-term planning for critical technology infrastructure. This investment signifies the government’s commitment to leveraging technology to advance healthcare and bolster Australia’s position in the global technology landscape while addressing national security concerns related to nuclear medicine production.
OpenGov Asia reported that the Government of Western Australia is taking steps to promote the growth of small to medium-sized local businesses by offering grants totalling over AU$3 million. These grants are intended to enhance their capabilities and competitiveness, enabling them to pursue contracts from both the government and private sector.
Known as the Local Capability Fund (LCF), this initiative serves as a crucial resource for recipients looking to expand their capacity and improve their competitiveness in supplying goods, services, and works to the government, major projects, and other significant markets.