Welcome to the Digital Health Co-operative Research Centre’s first newsletter for 2024. During the first few months of this year, we have taken a step back to reflect on our legacy as the DHCRC enters its final years. Cooperative Research Centres are unique organisations that do much of the heavy lifting to bring together government, researchers, and industry to find answers to challenging problems facing society, communities and the economy.   

Since our establishment in mid 2018, DHCRC has seen the healthcare sector face unprecedented challenges through the Covid pandemic, increasing demands from an ageing population, and more recently, a slowing economy.   

When over 70% of all healthcare services are funded by governments, it is vital that the health system works as efficiently as possible. With predictions that the fastest growing components of future Government expenditure are health, aged care, and disability services, supporting increased efficiency and effectiveness across these services is a critical goal.   

There has been much recent discussion about Australia’s slide in our position on international productivity league tables. Put simply increasing (labour) productivity means more goods and services are produced with the same amount of labour reflecting advances in technology, education and skills among the workforce. It means higher standards of living and greater prosperity.   

Innovation drives productivity improvement. Which brings me to the link between research, innovation and productivity improvement. The key phrase here for the DHCRC is “technology innovation” and the potential in health and aged care to improve the efficiency of the workforce and the patient and consumer experience across every point of the care continuum. There has been no shortage of digitisation across the healthcare sector in Australia, but it has not always delivered on expectations. The work now underway through the development of National standards to underpin interoperability will provide the missing elements to support digital transformation, unlock value and drive innovation across all the parts that make up Australia’s health system.   

As we look forward to everything we want to achieve through the DHCRC one of the key priorities remains to connect, support and grow Australia’s digital health technology sector. We are committed to ensuring that industry innovators can use the research evidence base developed through our partnerships to demonstrate their capabilities to build and commercialise technology solutions that will help us solve many of the challenges so well laid out in the Federal Government’s Digital Health Blueprint and Action Plan 2023–2033.  

Our experience in working with our industry partners over the last five years, and what was reinforced in the Industry Innovation and Science Australia (IISA) Barriers to Collaboration and Commercialisation Report released late last year, shows us that while Australia has a burgeoning pool of innovative businesses, many struggle to get the scale to make a tangible impact and grow. Given the size of the Australian market, digital health technology providers in Australia need to come with a global strategy from the outset.  

As Australia’s Chief Scientist, Dr Cathy Foley, said at the Cooperative Research Australia National Innovation Policy Forum that I attended at Parliament House in November, “Australia has a scale-up problem, not a start-up problem.”  

The Government is clearly on board with helping to grow the SME sector. Its $1bn investment in digital health in the last Federal Budget is welcomed, as to is the $392m Industry Growth Program announced by Minister Ed Husic late last year, with both initiatives designed to support small to medium enterprises (SMEs) and start-ups to commercialise their ideas and grow their businesses.  

However, more money may not be solving the real challenges facing the commercialisation of research and solving actual pain points for the healthcare sector. What we hear from our technology partners is they need opportunities. Connections and introductions are the most valuable currency. This is reinforced in our profile below featuring harrison.ai co-founder and CEO Aengus Tran.   

It is here that the DHCRC can play such a critical role in creating a collaborative ecosystem. As the University Accord called out, research funding should be a “national priority”. We agree, research is critical in driving innovation and innovation drives productivity but that road is long and winding and requires patient capital.  

Pleasingly, we see much of this research alive and active across our portfolio of research projects. Whether it is Monash University reviewing the effectiveness of Alcidion’s electronic patient journey boards which are being used by Alfred Health, or Swinburne University of Technology assessing the implementation of Propel Health AI’s platform at Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre in bringing together disparate data sets using AI to support innovative research and development. We have many significant research projects underway that have the possibility of reshaping the delivery of patient care.  

We look forward to working closely with our Participants along this journey. Whether you’re in industry, research, government or the broader health workforce, getting this right will be critical for everyone not least the Australian population.  

We hope you enjoy this newsletter with DHCRC’s latest news, updates from our active Education and Capacity Building team, and a look ahead at upcoming industry events. If you like what you read, then do feel free to pass this on to peers who may be interested in updates from the DHCRC.  

Thanks for your support.  

Annette Schmiede
CEO, Digital Health CRC  


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