With proper preparedness skills, one may be able to swiftly manage a dire situation with grace.
OpenGov spoke to Mr. Geoff Williams, Director of Business Continuity Practice at the Australian Department of Human Services, on the very topic of business continuity.
The Department of Human Services is the largest commonwealth agency on Australia with about 34,000 public sector employees. Geoff Williams has been a manager and a consumer of business continuity since the late 1990s.
Mr. Williams has been through the advent of Y2K and is a survivor of the great swine flu scare of 2009. He has managed various ICT projects and business as usual services in the private and public sectors. He also manages a Business Continuity validation and exercise program.
Mr. Williams’ focus for the next few years involves working on the rolling 12 month programs, which follows the 6 common practices in the BC lifecycle. His team provides incident response exercises for regional areas and division level exercises for Canberra. They are currently in the middle of the second round of business impact analyses and the supporting Business Continuity plans.
Mr. Williams finds that in dealing with an emergency situation, one must take a principles-based approach.
“You need to put together a decision making framework while remembering the key priorities of your business. These agreed priorities to make sure you do not lose sight of strategic direction. The executives that are in charge of monitoring that response, stay at the appropriate strategic level. This helps you focus on what is really important to the department and helps you manage the media,” Mr Williams told us.
“This helps people get a bigger picture of what they are looking at, what the business is there to do in the first place, may slip their mind,” Mr. Williams said, “In the event of a crisis, someone might be living too much in the moment. This will lead them to forget about how life must move on from such an event.”
Specific abilities required to work in the realm of business continuity, as Mr. Williams describes, “Includes an analytical and inquiring mind, attention to detail, and some genuine life experience. Someone in this field needs to know what is at risk, and what is not. People who can think for themselves and put matters into context will respond appropriately. They must keep calm and prioritize.”
These skills are imperative to have while dealing with a major crisis. Being able to pause and concentrate on the bigger picture, allows the individual to better assess the situation.
Mr. Williams is proud of the team he works with at the Department of Human Services. He believes that they help facilitate a healthy atmosphere. He said, “We have a very effective team in Business Continuity. Our people are very passionate, and it makes for a good environment.”
Mr. Williams hopes his Business Continuity team can improve organisational resilience. Thus, helping people think independently rather than rely on central planning agency in the aftermath of a crisis.
Science, engineering, technology, and innovation give people the power to develop a country and its quality of life. Investment in these areas is vital for economic growth and social progress.
Research and development in smart tech can help build greener cities with better access to essential systems and services for all. Moreover, infrastructure development, technology transfer and public and private R&D must be supported and regulated by good policies if they are to work.
To ensure scientific progress is encouraged and embraced at all levels of government decision-making, the Academy of Sciences Malaysia (ASM) is tasked with giving strategic advice to the government and stakeholders, as well as pursuing excellence in science, engineering, and technology for the benefit of everyone.
Malaysia’s S.E.T.I. Initiatives
One of the contributions of the ASM is to incorporate interactive learning of STEM into the pedagogy of education in Malaysian schools. “To see the performance and results, inquiry-based science education (IBSE) will create an interactive learning environment in the physical classroom. Therefore, we want to have this kind of ecosystem and environment in schools.”
She is eager to see more collaboration between tertiary education and industry so that any courses and curricula provided by universities are both industry-required and future-proof. This is why their organisation is working with the government to create collaboration between industry and academia. “I believe that will help us advance more.”
ASM is currently working with the Malaysian government, in particular the central agency, to begin evaluating public decision-making universities based on data. Hence, using facts, metrics, and data to inform strategic business decisions that align with goals, objectives, and initiatives is the most effective data-driven decision-making.
Making data-driven decisions the norm within an organisation is necessary to foster a climate that values scepticism and curiosity. “Data is the starting point of conversations at every level, and people improve their data skills through practice and application,” says Hazami.
At its core, this calls for a self-service model where users can access the data they require while maintaining a balance between security and governance. Additionally, it necessitates proficiency, resulting in opportunities for training and development for workers to acquire data skills.
Additionally, ASM has developed a Responsible Conduct of Research module which acts as a benchmark to have this code of ethics in research taught to all graduates, whether they are in hard sciences or the social sciences.
“We want that because every piece of knowledge we incorporate in the future will be based on good science and value. Therefore, we must consider bioethics, biosecurity, and training modules on ethics in research,” Hazami explains.
ASM has recently directed its scientists to provide solutions in close collaboration with the ministries. Citing as an example is their committee on water, energy, health, agriculture, and biodiversity (WEHAB++). For instance, when Malaysia faces issues such as the price hike for chicken feed which causes societal dissatisfaction, solutions to food security issues such as this can be provided by the Academy’s expert network through science and technology directly to the government and stakeholders.
In addition to providing policies and strategies to decision-makers, the ASM also teaches them how to carry out those policies and strategies by applying their knowledge.
Hazami highlighted the growing movement called “Open Science” which aims to open scientific data and research to the public. In addition to democratising knowledge, the international principle of making research data findable, accessible, interoperable, and reusable (FAIR) will support open scientific inquiry and integrity, facilitate improved research management, and encourage data-intensive research.
Unprecedented insights and solutions to local, regional, and global complex challenges are made possible by integrating numerous data streams and enormous datasets across numerous disciplines.
Through the Malaysia Open Science Alliance, the Ministry of Energy, Science, Technology, Environment & Climate Change (MESTECC), now known as the Ministry of Science, Technology, and Innovation (MOSTI) and the ASM are laying the groundwork for the realisation of the Malaysia Open Science Platform (MOSP), a strategic transformative project to strengthen Malaysia’s STI Collaborative Ecosystem.
“The Malaysia Open Science Platform or MOSP aims to connect raw research data, then collaborate and share,” Hazami explains. “By creating a reliable platform that enables accessibility and sharing of research data aligned to national priorities and international best practices, this initiative seeks to transform Malaysia’s research data into a valuable national asset.”
Hazami is passionate about science and technology because it has the power to change the nation. “I’m attempting to make a change, and one of those changes is in the area of science and technology.”
For her, the most meaningful contribution in her 26 years in the academy was when the government accepted 80% of their recommendations for transforming and creating change and an ecosystem. “For now, our current areas of focus are strengthening governance, the innovation ecosystem and the sustainability of R&D funding.”
A change in paradigm towards a growth mindset among policymakers, scientists and the younger generations is her greatest challenge and greatest passion. She believes that when decision-making is based on data, it can provide the best solution possible.
Hazami strongly believes that Malaysian women are more than capable of pursuing careers in science and technology. They hope to have a strong support network to help them succeed in those fields, whether as practitioners or scientists.
“Our goal is flexibility. We need to have an open work environment and open innovation because we can work from home as researchers and scientists. We are more adaptable now. If we can accomplish this, more and more women will contribute to the workforce more effectively,” she says emphatically.
By reaching out to the top management and demystifying technical terms, OpenGov Asia, a steadfast supporter of Malaysia’s digital transformation journey and an advocate for citizen-centric development, will continue to help bring about change. Hazami concludes by urging top leaders to practice a growth mindset for the betterment of the country.
Hazami strongly believes that over the course of the next five years, ASM will continue to serve as a catalyst for change and create the science, technology, innovation, and economy (STIE) ecosystem for the entire nation towards the full potential of digital transformation, including the Malaysian transformation and the humanisation of the economy. “Leaders’ courageous decisions pave the road to successful digital transformation.”
New technology will be keeping beachgoers safer this summer with the Smart Beaches project providing real-time data to almost 50 beaches in NSW, helping the region’s lifeguards more accurately predict beach conditions using GPS and smart cameras.
The Minister for Customer Service and Digital Government stated that the NSW government had invested AU$ 1.6 million to expand the project beyond the Northern Beaches and Lake Macquarie to five new council areas up and down the coast this swim season.
He noted that wave detection buoys, artificial intelligence cameras and surf rescue boards fitted with GPS technology to gather accurate data will be used on beach conditions to enable lifeguards to be better prepared for the busy summer ahead.
These smart devices will provide real-time readings on tide conditions and wave patterns, as well as help to predict how many people will visit the beach, how long they will stay and the most popular times for a swim.
The Smart Beaches project will allow beachgoers to feel safer at the surf, knowing the lifeguards have the latest data on hand to be better prepared for dangerous conditions and prevent incidents both in and out of the water.
The Minister for Local Government stated that the expansion of the trial will mean more councils will benefit from new technology. The data insights help councils make better decisions about when and where to roster lifeguards, decisions that could save lives, she said. As a result, this programme will now be expanded to beaches in Randwick, Central Coast, Wollongong, Newcastle, and Sutherland.
The Member for Manly noted that the technology had been successfully trialled at Freshwater, Shelley, South Steyne and Dee Why beaches. Over the summer of 2020-2021, 88 lives were lost in the surf. Thus, the technology will help lifeguards make more informed decisions to reduce that toll.
The state’s lifeguards will require all help they can get monitoring the surf, conditions, crowd numbers and keeping our beachgoers safe. An app is also being developed for Summer 2023/2024 that will help councils streamline existing reporting and data systems into one, easy-to-interpret dashboard. Funding has been provided through the Smart Places Acceleration Programme, an AU$45 million allocation as part of the Digital Restart Fund.
About the Smart Places Acceleration Programme
The NSW government has launched the NSW Smart Places Acceleration Programme, an AU$45 million initiative that helps place owners – including councils, government agencies, property owners, and regional organisations – partner with the State Government to solve problems and improve the quality of life for communities across regional and metropolitan NSW.
The programme will seek to:
- Support economic and community recovery post COVID-19
- Encourage partnerships with and co-investment from local councils and industry to deliver smart place initiatives
- Support advancement and implementation of the NSW Smart Places Strategy
- Ensure NSW remains the leading state in implementing Smart Places initiatives
The Minister for Customer Service stated that this programme will connect and empower communities by driving investment in new technology and data. The aim is to use technology to make life easier for people. Be it busting congestion or improving health outcomes, the funding aims to strengthen communities. The government is calling on expressions of interest and encourages all relevant councils and place owners to bring forward ideas.
In a bid to establish itself as a global mRNA vaccine hub, The Queensland government has partnered with a leading healthcare company to establish a world-first research centre in Brisbane. The AU$280 million Translational Science Hub will be established under an agreement between the company, the University of Queensland, Griffith University, and the Queensland Government.
The state’s Premier noted that Queensland will be the only jurisdiction in Australia to have a centre like this. She said that the Translational Science Hub will give them the platform to develop life-saving vaccines.
The Deputy Premier and Minister for State Development said the new Hub would help drive the development of new vaccines and healthcare solutions across the world. Through the Translational Science Hub, Queensland scientists will collaborate with global peers in the US and France on ground-breaking mRNA technology and vaccine development.
The Hub will bring more expertise, supply-chain capabilities, as well as clinical investigations to Queensland. It is expected to create up to 200 jobs for Queenslanders and strengthen the region’s biomanufacturing supply chain. mRNA technology is expected to deliver a new generation of vaccines that instruct certain cells to produce proteins that are recognised by the immune system to mount a defence.
The Minister for Science stated that Queensland is being recognised as a global research and innovation hub thanks to the government’s investment in state-of-the-art research facilities, talent attraction and partnerships between industry, academia and government.
She said that the agreement will make Queensland science even more competitive by accelerating the commercialisation of local research by linking university partners with a global industry leader to evaluate and develop new health technologies.
The government is also investing AU$17 million in the state budget to provide significant support to foster partnerships between universities and industry and accelerate the commercial application of major research being conducted in the state.
The Translational Science Hub in Queensland will work closely with the healthcare firm’s mRNA Centre of Excellence in France and the US to accelerate a new era of vaccine innovation, the firm’s Global Head of Vaccine Research and Development said.
The Vice-Chancellor and President, Griffith University, stated that Griffith is delighted to be part of the partnership building on the strengths and capabilities of the University’s existing biomedical leadership. The University’s researchers are internationally recognised for bringing disease-specific mRNA expertise to developing new vaccines and therapies while our Clinical Trial Unit is a leader in testing safety and efficacy.
The Vice-Chancellor, University of Queensland stated that the partnership builds on a commitment to bring the latest technologies to UQ’s internationally recognised vaccine and drug development programs. The shift in focus mRNA technologies was accelerated during the pandemic and UQ has invested in both the people and facilities to ensure mRNA for pre-clinical research can be developed and produced in Queensland.
The Translational Science Hub will be located across Queensland, using the laboratories and infrastructure of the University of Queensland, Griffith University, and the Translational Research Institute (TRI). The research is expected to start in Q1 2023 with an initial focus on a Chlamydia vaccine.
Chlamydia is the most common STI in the world with around 129 million infections a year. While Chlamydia can be treated, there is currently no vaccine to prevent infection. If left untreated it can lead to infertility and in pregnant women can result in foetal eye and lung infections.
The biomedical industry in Queensland contributes around AU$ 2.1 billion in gross value-added products and employs more than 12,000 people across the state. The industry is supported by the Queensland Biomedical 10-Year Roadmap and Action Plan.
Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO, helped launch construction of the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) Observatory’s SKA-Low telescope at Inyarrimanha Ilgari Bundara, the CSIRO Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory on Wajarri Country in Western Australia (WA).
The global SKA Observatory (SKAO) announced the start of on-site construction activity for both their telescopes, SKA-Low in Australia and SKA-Mid in South Africa. The SKA-Low telescope will be the first mega-science project co-hosted in Australia and will explore the Universe in more detail than ever before, transforming the current understanding of the cosmos and benefitting society through global collaboration and innovation.
The SKA project aims to help Australian expertise remain at the forefront of discovery as an example collaboration to drive innovation, especially the collaboration of the Wajarri Yamaji, Traditional Owners and native title holders of the telescope site.
The progress of the SKA project over the past two decades has allowed researchers to see further into the universe than ever before. It has driven innovation and inspired generations both new and old through the development of technologies to solve great challenges facing our planet by better understanding the universe.
The start of SKA-Low construction on site is the culmination of many dreams, both within CSIRO and the global astronomy community, and the next step on this journey of discovery. CSIRO is the SKAO’s operations partner for the SKA-Low telescope in Australia and holds multiple contracts for SKA-Low construction activities.
The SKA-Low telescope will spread across 74 km end-to-end at the WA observatory site alongside existing instruments including CSIRO’s ASKAP radio telescope.
The SKA-Low Telescope Director stated that the SKAO was pleased to have established operations and engineering centres in Australia, where SKAO works closely with CSIRO as operations partner. She noted that CSIRO has been involved in the SKA project since its inception and have been leaders in radio astronomy science and technology for more than 70 years. The SKA Observatory welcomes this partnership with CSIRO to build and operate the SKA-Low telescope in Western Australia, she added.
CSIRO is also a foundation member in other key SKA project partners in Australia, including the Pawsey Supercomputing Research Centre and the Australian SKA Regional Centre.
More about CSIRO’s role in the SKA project
Australia is a member of the international organisation established to build and operate the world’s most powerful radio astronomy facility, the SKA Observatory (SKAO). The SKA Observatory will consist of two radio-telescopes, one in Australia (SKA-Low), and one in South Africa (SKA-Mid). The two telescopes will observe the sky at different radio frequencies and complement each other scientifically.
CSIRO will be the operating partner for the SKA-Low telescope, as well as hosting the telescope itself at Inyarrimanha Ilgari Bundara, our Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory in Western Australia.
SKA-Low will consist of an array of 131,072 Christmas tree-shaped antennas, grouped in 512 stations, each with 256 antennas. Several of these antenna stations will be placed in the centre and the rest will span out along three spiral arms, stretching 74 kilometres end to end. SKA-Low will operate at frequencies between 50 and 350 MHz, like FM radio and TV broadcasts.
In addition to its role as operations partner and managers of the telescope site, CSIRO will also contribute to the construction of the SKA-Low Telescope. CSIRO:
- Led the infrastructure design work and is collaborating with industry partners to manage the site infrastructure construction process. This includes its work with industry partner Aurecon to manage the infrastructure contracts in Australia, including the contract with an Australian-based business.
- Is working with university and industry partners to oversee the installation of SKA-Low antenna stations.
- Is managing the assembly, integration, and verification process – the work to connect and check all the individual sub systems and products are working correctly – together with international institutions.
- Is working with international research institutions to develop the central signal processing system of the telescope, the backend of the telescope that takes the signals from each antenna station and combines them before sending that information to the science data processing system.
- Is working with university partners to design the science data processing system, the supercomputer software that takes the data from the telescope and outputs the images astronomers use to study the universe.
Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO, recently revealed details of an AU$15 million project to develop a national soil information system, aimed at improving the sustainable management of one of the nation’s most precious assets.
Supporting the National Soil Strategy, and funded by the Australian Government’s Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, the Australian National Soil Information System (ANSIS) project is a collaboration between the government, research organisations, industry, the private sector and the community.
Using innovative processes and technologies, ANSIS will allow improved sharing of nationally consistent soil data and information through online access for users. This will help Australians to better understand their nation’s diverse range of soils and make better decisions about managing our important soil resources. Currently, soil data is collected using different methods, by different organisations, and at a range of depths in the soil. This makes it hard to access, compare and use data from diverse sources.
The Project Lead at CSIRO stated that improving access to the best soil data and information can help promote digital agriculture innovation and is key to sustainably managing Australia’s soils. By using ANSIS, farmers and agricultural advisors will have access to more soil data and be better placed to more sustainably manage the soil on which they rely.
Soil is vital to agricultural production and natural environments, as well as health and well-being. This information system will help everyone care for this important natural resource. Productive, healthy, and resilient soil means more economic, environmental, and social benefits to Australia. Monitoring soil also helps scientific understanding of how the natural world is changing.
This work will provide insight into biodiversity, water resources, landscapes and coastlines, fauna, climate, and geology. By harmonising Australia’s soil data, we can make it accessible across many fields of science and exploration. The project is being delivered under the Federal Government’s National Soil Strategy, which is about prioritising soil health, empowering soil innovation and stewards, and strengthening soil knowledge and capability. The new ANSIS system will be available for use in 2023.
ANSIS will provide improved access to nationally consistent soil data and information needed to help sustainably manage Australian soil. ANSIS will provide:
- More soil data
- More data sets are available that in other soil systems
- Enables more certainty in products developed
- Opportunity to develop new products
- Improved access
- Multiple data sets are now discoverable and accessible
- National coverage
- Most up-to-date data available
- Efficient provision
- Organised and standardised data for immediate use
- Can feed into many users’ requirements
- Consistent delivery
- Substantial reduction in time to prepare information products
- Trusted location
- Certainty that data is from an authoritative source, verified and satisfies standards.
AI and other digital technologies could help solve some of the world’s most important social problems, like climate change, biodiversity loss, food insecurity and risks to public health, among others. Harnessing digital capabilities to promote a transformative system could be a game-changer for a sustainable and equitable global future.
Today’s consumers expect more than great products and services, and businesses are well aware of this. Clients want to feel like they are investing in a reputable, responsible brand. Consequently, the most market-dominant businesses are not merely profitable and have good products but those that have multiple alternate bottom lines – social, environmental and sustainable.
More than 90% of business executives agree that sustainability is crucial to their success. As consumer groups continue to publish reports on the increased desire for more environmentally friendly corporate practices, it is simple to see why green marketing strategies are gaining such importance.
The environment and sustainability are vital components in the strategy and operations of enterprises looking to be more conscientious. Organisations have been taking proactive steps to develop a greener future with their consumers, partners, stakeholders and workers. These efforts include environmental initiatives, community outreach efforts and business practices.
Advancing Environmental Sustainability and Resilience
“Everyone is becoming aware of the necessity for action to attain sustainability,” says Vivek. “There is a growing interest in corporate sustainability and how corporations can strive for it to meet the needs of stakeholders for social, economic, and environmental implications.”
Most businesses are considering ways to contribute significantly, which will need robust investment and efforts. “We see businesses quickening their momentum and considering effective climate innovations. A case in point is how electric mobility companies can be affected by the huge reductions in costs for climate technology.”
Vivek believes it is possible to adapt a company’s digital strategy to mitigate and deal with extreme climate change. Companies must include digitalisation and decarbonisation in their strategy, as industry 4.0 technologies will play a crucial role in meeting the emissions reduction goal.
Digital technologies can increase energy efficiency and decrease fuel consumption across multiple industries and sectors. Digitalisation has the potential to revolutionise the way people and technology interact by helping to analyse and calibrate necessary interventions.
By utilising digitalisation, businesses can identify the emissions sources, whether at the product level, manufacturing unit level, or equipment level. They can then determine the necessary interventions to reduce emissions, such as a change in the manufacturing or personnel settings, and then monitor whether the identified interventions are being implemented.
“Here is where I believe digitalisation and decarbonisation must go hand-in-hand, as this will ensure that industries undergo structural changes and reach their objective,” says Vivek.
Businesses need to be more conscious of the need to be prepared for the energy shift, and he has five relevant steps for how businesses should approach this:
- Develop an understanding of how energy shifts will affect your company;
- Think about a bold and ambitious target, such as considering how big of a carbon footprint reduction they intend to achieve with this energy transition;
- Consider various situations and their effects;
- Create a comprehensive plan that will serve as an overall strategy with well-defined and cascading targets;
- Think about implementation, where companies strike a balance between all the goals, e.g., carbon footprint and profitability
Right now, society is more conscious of sustainability and is calling for companies to shift their carbon footprint and be more conscious about emissions. This is causing profound changes in the corporate and government landscape.
Organisations can work toward more sustainable practices with the aid of corporate sustainability’s economic, social and environmental pillars. Businesses must alter their mindset from just profitability at the expense of the environment to a sustainable and profitable paradigm. There must be interdependence and a greater emphasis on operations and eco-innovation.
Adopting sustainable practices benefits the environment, but businesses have also demonstrated that these programmes can boost productivity, lower costs, make shareholders happy, and a host of other advantages.
“Corporate entities must take the initiative in determining pertinent technologies. Companies must implement technologies to decrease their carbon footprint. They are the ones that will bring about change. Governments can decide the legislation, but unless companies change, it will be difficult to achieve net zero,” Vivek firmly believes.
A green economy is the practice of sustainable development supported by public and private investment in creating an infrastructure that promotes social and environmental sustainability. A green economy refers to an economy in which individuals are increasingly aware of their carbon emissions and are taking steps to reduce them.
A carbon footprint is the total amount of greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide and methane, that corporations and individuals generate.
There are numerous practical and effective approaches to implementing sustainable technologies at the national level. “I believe that each country will deploy different technologies; the mix of technologies, the adoption rate, and the deployment cost will all be very different. However, each country will need to consider what sustainable technologies are relevant to them, consider implementing them, and consider the reasons for doing so.”
According to Vivek, decarbonisation entails significant economic transformation. When new business opportunities arise in Asia, companies must contemplate how they will be the first to take advantage. To do this, they must seriously consider the technologies and industries they want to innovate in or implement and the various business models they should use to take these opportunities.
There will be an acceleration of the energy transitions if individuals in the nation change their behaviour, the government considers how the empowering regulations should be made, or how businesses decide how they will operate.
Vivek has led several large-scale transformations and new business builds across the region, such as for an energy conglomerate in Indonesia. From this experience, he is convinced that a fundamentally different way of thinking about any business problem is required.
It requires thinking about what the unique value proposition is going to be and thinking about getting new talent to build a business from the ground up. Some of his most memorable moments on this journey include realising the value of having the right talent.
Another thing he learned is that customer preferences change at very different levels. So, thinking about the organisation’s unique value propositions and how customers perceive them becomes very important. For incumbents, choosing different business models can also be essential.
Both private and public organisations are aware that change needs to occur quickly. Resources are becoming harder to come by while demand is rising, necessitating a balance to build a sustainable future. “Green technologies will help the world achieve sustainable levels and make the environment cleaner and safer for everyone.”
Urban Ideas and Solutions Through LKYGBPC
Vivek is on the International Judging Panel (IJP) of the Lee Kuan Yew Global Business Plan Competition (LKYGBPC), a biennial global university start-up challenge held in Singapore.
As a member of the judging panel charged with driving, developing, and upholding the entrepreneurial spirit of the LKYGBPC participants, Vivek is focused on the innovativeness of the solutions, such as how effectively the technology solves the problem.
He also believes that feasibility and how the different technologies are correctly implemented can significantly change the world. “These two parameters will be quite useful in considering how we are selecting, or how I would select various technologies.”
He acknowledges that innovative entrepreneurship talent can be cultivated wider in the broader community through such competitions. These serve as an illustration of how they are fostering innovation and entrepreneurship across society.
The competition is also one example of instilling a culture where the next generation is thinking about how things can be done differently. Competitors explore creative ideas and have a forum where they can share their thoughts, which can be a great example of nurturing innovation.
The competition, which is run by the Institute of Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Singapore Management University (SMU), is centred on urban ideas and solutions developed by student founders and early-stage start-ups. It is positioned as a campus innovation movement that seeks to establish a global startup ecosystem with financial backers, including venture capitalists, corporate oligopolies, and governmental organisations.
“I believe many of our leading schools are doing a great job of instilling a culture where children are thinking about how things can be done differently and what are creative ideas,” Vivek opines.
There are numerous instances throughout the world where the technologies or solutions used by youth or larger communities have truly made a meaningful difference. “But it does take some significant effort to raise awareness and establish a forum where people can discuss their concerns, share their ideas, and obtain the resources needed to solve them,” Vivek concludes.
Researchers at the University of South Australia are trialling a simple finger prick technology that could soon be all it takes to save the lives of pregnant mothers and their babies who are at risk of a dangerous pregnancy complication known as preeclampsia.
Preeclampsia affects four per cent of all pregnancies in Australia and can cause organ failure, blood clotting, restricted foetal growth and be life-threatening for the mum and baby. However, current diagnosis methods are complex and can take up to 24 hours in rural areas – time that is critical when dealing with the health of an unborn baby.
In a move which could revolutionise the diagnosis and care of the condition, scientists from UniSA’s Future Industries Institute have developed new technology which requires only a few drops of blood to test for preeclampsia – and the result returned within 30 minutes. This means the test can be done quickly and accurately in a rural setting by a primary healthcare team, without the need to send it to an advanced laboratory.
The Hospital Research Foundation Group is now funding the testing stage of their device, in the hope that earlier and more accurate diagnosis can improve prenatal care and save lives.
Chief investigators Dr Duy Phu Tran and Professor Benjamin Thierry said the device would be most critical in regional settings where emergency care is limited, with preeclampsia one of the main reasons for emergency retrievals by the Royal Flying Doctors Service.
The technology is designed to enable rapid and accurate point-of-care testing for preeclampsia biomarkers, allowing for quicker interventions and likely improved pregnancy outcomes for women living in rural Australia.
The current tests for preeclampsia in primary care involve a combination of blood pressure measurements, urinalysis and/or biochemical and haematological testing. Blood biomarkers have recently been identified but testing can only be carried out in large laboratories, for example, at the Women’s & Children’s Hospital.
Concurrently, preeclampsia can progress very quickly – in some cases hours – and have catastrophic consequences. We hope our device can bridge this gap in care for rural women.
An AU$132,000 grant from The Hospital Research Foundation Group will help accelerate the testing and commercialisation of the device through a trial of at-risk pregnant women in hospitals. If validated, the trial will then extend to mothers seen by the Royal Flying Doctors Service retrieval team, with the hope to then expand even wider with more funding. The 3D-printed device is being manufactured locally by the South Australian node of the Australian National Fabrication Facility at UniSA’s Mawson Lakes campus.
The Director of the National Emergency Response and the Public Health Research Unit at the Royal Flying Doctors Service said if the trial was successful, the technology would have a significant impact on prenatal care in regional areas. He noted that preeclampsia is a substantial risk during pregnancy, which is exacerbated in remote communities, where diagnosis and subsequent treatment can take significantly longer than in major city areas.
The hospital conducts roughly 750 retrievals associated with pregnancy per year, with pre-term labour, premature rupture of membranes and preeclampsia being some of the leading transfer reasons.
The Royal Flying Doctor Service has seen, first-hand, the impacts of poorly managed preeclampsia and this technology is an exciting and much-needed step forward in improving rural and remote patient outcomes and in closing the gap, he added.
Meanwhile, the CEO of The Hospital Research Foundation Group, said the organisation was pleased to be advancing testing of the device. He noted that women’s health and bridging the gap between country and city care are important healthcare needs. The revolutionary technology, if validated, will be an exciting development to give all mums and bubs the very best start in life, he added.