NSW Health and Cicada Innovations extend medtech and biotech partnership, as Aussie startups seize a global opportunity

cicada innovations

Cicada Innovations chief executive officer Sally-Ann Williams. Source: Twitter.

Aussie deep tech incubator Cicada Innovations is set to continue delivering a free training program for biotech and medtech professionals and academics, in partnership with New South Wales Health. 

The partnership marks a continuation of the NSW Health Commercialisation Training Program, which is designed to unearth and fast-track development of innovative new tech in the healthcare sector.

The idea is to both improve patient outcomes and provide additional opportunities for emerging NSW medtech startups.

Having already helped in the creation of 19 businesses over six years — which have raised more than $77 million in funding combined — the scheme will now continue for another four years.

Cicada Innovation chief executive Sally-Ann Williams tells SmartCompany the ongoing partnership shows and “continued and growing commitment” from the NSW government.

The state government is investing heavily in medical device companies and medical precincts, in a strategic way, she notes.

Now, that’s starting to pay off, she says.

“Medtech is such a long-term play,” she notes.

It’s a heavily regulated space and a long pathway to bring anything to market. So, to see the results this program has in its first six years shows the potential this sector has to boost both the local and national economy in the future.

For Cicada, it also represents “an affirmation that our 21 years of history speaks for itself”, she adds.

Many of the companies that have come up through the incubator and are now seeing success are returning to teach into the program.

Deep tech is a long-term play, Williams explains, and Cicada is all about the ecosystem — bringing people together to make long-term change.

“To see some of that fruition and that long-term vision come to life … is really gratifying.”

This announcement follows a few months of high activity in the medtech and biotech space.

Just last week, Melbourne-based biotech Currus Biologics raised $10 million to continue its work producing an innovative new cancer treatment, and in June Ena Respiratory raised $32 million to fund human trials for its nasal spray product intended to protect people from COVID-19.

Back in February, Queensland startup Ellume secured a $304 million contract with the US government to roll out its COVID-19 self-testing kit.

And, the federal budget in May saw $206 million pledged to a ‘patent box’ scheme to encourage investment in medtech and biotech.

Williams puts this buzziness partly down to the pandemic.

“For the very first time we’ve had 18 months of intense global scrutiny on the sector,” she explains.

Suddenly, the general public are hungry for news from this space. And in Australia, people like Williams have been able to point to a whole range of businesses that have been kicking goals in the sector for years, but have remained under the radar.

They’re delivering not only on the COVID-19 response, but on other health challenges as well. Suddenly, they’re visible.

And Australia is at the forefront of medtech and biotech on a global scale, too.

In transplants, IVF, burn treatments, implants, diagnostics and more, “we’ve paved the way”, Williams says.

“We’ve got this really long history of it, well beyond Cochlear,” she adds.

It’s the right time and the right place for investment, and for Williams, it’s heartening to see both state and federal governments committing to it.

“The payoff and the benefits are going to live beyond an election cycle,” she says.

These are businesses that will contribute to Australia’s economic growth in the long term. People will have better health, for one.

We will also reap the benefit of new, high-value jobs, and these solutions are globally applicable, which can be exported.

“It can only be good for us at a national level,” Williams says.

There’s no reason Australia can’t be a global leader in this sector, and lead the way in medtech and biotech development.

“We have the knowledge, we have the skill. It now seems we have the funding and the government backing,” she says.

“It’s a phenomenal thing to see.”


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