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by Kate O’Mara

Healthcare and the potential it presents our local companies to enter an emerging, opportunity-rich industry sector has recently become a stronger focus for the Hunter Central Coast.

The combined region has a distinguished manufacturing history. Shipbuilding and steelmaking have previously underpinned its economic strength and now it’s food manufacturing and the multi-billion-dollar resources and defence sectors continue to call on the region’s high-performing SMEs to produce vital equipment, technology and products.

Our traditional, regulated industries have produced a workforce with skills at both technical and trade levels that deliver smart, technically sophisticated solutions. This, coupled with a track record for adaptability in the face of economic shocks, increases the ease with which our companies apply transferrable skills and knowledge into new, high-tech industry sectors, like HealthTech.

The region is fortunate to have a strong Health sector managed by forward-thinking, collaborative executives who are actively seeking to engage with the local industry base and work together to solve health’s wicked problems – locally if they can.

Formal systems and processes are right now being developed by the region’s enabling organisations in partnership with industry to ensure that our local companies can work side-by-side with clinicians, researchers, educators and scientists to contribute to solving health challenges.

The Hunter Central Coast health & medtech industry base is burgeoning. Compared with our mining, logistics, wine-making, food manufacturing and equine industries its small and diverse, but it’s motivated. There’s a shared ambition to grow, build capability and capacity, and be part of a local supply chain solution. We have the chance right now to help our local companies uncover and seize opportunities in a new and profitable sector.

RDA Hunter through its Health & Medtech Industry Cluster is one of the enabling organisations that’s helping to make it happen.

The Health & Medtech Industry Cluster (HMIC) was established by RDA Hunter in 2020. Its stakeholder base is, like the region’s wider economy, large and varied. Companies with technical expertise in health & medtech, advanced manufacturing and engineering, our Local Health Districts, clinicians, allied health providers, healthtech-focused professional services companies, researchers, educators, government and industry peak bodies are represented.

HMIC is working with its 125 stakeholder companies towards the collective aim of regional growth through new partnerships that result in new commercial projects which solve clinical and process problems. Our vision is to see the region’s own clinicians, advanced manufacturers, health providers, technology developers, researchers, engineers, project managers, design thinkers, CROs, enablers and government representatives uniting to produce and commercialise new-to-the-world innovations.

We’re excited to be facilitating engagement between the John Hunter Health Innovation Precinct, its foundation partners and the region’s health & medtech focused industry base to explore how we can turn this ambition into reality.

Awareness of the Hunter Central Coast as a genuine contributor in Australia’s healthtech sector is growing. To this end, today we’ve released a suite of awareness raising materials that highlight the region’s strengths as a location for HealthTech and insights about its existing health & medtech companies. Together with a brand-new video, Region Ready: HealthTech produced in partnership with Out of the Square Media, our HealthTech Investment Prospectus outlines a strong case for the Hunter Central Coast having all the elements needed to contribute to advancements in health.

Here’s some of what our latest capability survey found.

The region has a spread of large and small, mature and start-up health & medtech companies representing medtech, digital health, wellness, biotech, service and health providers. Interestingly, 17% have been operating for more than 25 years.

Collaboration is a differentiator. 76% collaborate with universities, 60% with hospitals/health and 54% with other industry. Importantly, 94% want to build more collaborations with hospitals and universities to develop solutions to health problems.

510 clinical trials are currently active, 43% sponsored by industry – often global pharmaceuticals companies.

Most important is that regional sentiment is positive. In the next 12 months, 82% of HMIC companies are planning to expand their teams, 46% are planning to invest in R&D and 57% are planning to invest in new products.

View and download in full at www.hmic.org.au.

Kate O’Mara is the Director of HMIC