Bionics Challenge to accelerate life-changing innovations


Monday, 19 April, 2021



Bionics Challenge to accelerate life-changing innovations

Bionics Queensland is inviting Australia’s brightest minds to enter the Bionics Challenge 2021, a Queensland-led competition designed to unleash life-changing bionic discoveries. The Challenge will deliver $300,000 in prizes and program support to teams working on life-changing bionic implants, devices and treatments that will assist those impacted by road accident trauma, a disability, disease or chronic health conditions.

Bionics Queensland CEO Dr Robyn Stokes said the Bionics Challenge 2021 will welcome bionic thought leaders across the nation to foster homegrown innovation and accelerate healthcare solutions globally.

“We are inviting everyone from grassroots innovators and start-ups to experienced scientists, academics, clinicians, engineers, prosthetists, health practitioners and small businesses in AI and robotics,” Dr Stokes said. “People often refer to the ‘$6 Million Man or Woman’ when they hear the word ‘bionics’, but today bionics are becoming far more accessible and affordable.

“The continued research and advanced technology will see more people have access to bionic limbs, biofabricated implants, AI-enabled devices that deliver the work of an organ and brain-computer-interfaces that enable communication.”

Delivered in partnership with the Motor Accident Insurance Commission of Queensland (MAIC), Dr Stokes said this year’s Challenge will provide cash prizes along with mentoring and commercialisation training to help the winning teams fast-track their bionic devices and treatments to market.

“The Challenge presents an opportunity for local innovators to progress their projects and help millions of people — not only through the prize money, but also through meeting and collaborating with other innovators across a variety of fields,” Dr Stokes said.

The Bionics Challenge 2021 includes a National Bionics Innovation Prize sponsored by Morgans Financial Ltd ($25,000 in cash plus support and mentorship to the value of $25,000) and $232,000 in cash prizes provided by MAIC. This includes $50,000 for each of four Major Category Winners and $8000 for each Early-Stage Bionic Innovation Award recipient.

Entries are sought in four major categories: bionic mobility (eg, limbs, spine or enabling technologies); bionic senses (eg, vision, hearing, touch, taste or others); bionic implants and organs (bio-robotic or tissue engineered); bionics, the brain, neurotech and AI (eg, delivering devices and treatments for acquired brain injury, spinal cord injury and other chronic diseases).

“Talented inventors, start-ups and R&D leaders across Australia are invited to compete for the National Bionics Innovation Prize and collaborate across borders to compete for Major Category Prizes awarded to Queensland-led teams,” Dr Stokes said.

“In 2020, we saw innovators join Queensland-led teams from other parts of Australia, North America and Europe to compete in our first-ever Challenge. Real change can be achieved by Australians who act on their ideas, collaborating with others to turn their breakthrough or improvement on the way things are done into a life-changing bionic device or technology.

“We are excited to see who will take the baton from last year’s contestants and join the race to transform lives,” Dr Stokes said.

MAIC has partnered with Bionics Queensland in a bid to improve and expand the rehabilitation technologies available to those injured in road crashes.

Queensland’s Insurance Commissioner, Neil Singleton said that while reducing deaths from road crashes is often a key focus, thousands suffer serious injuries, amputations and loss of vital functions that bionic innovations can help to improve or restore.

“Our partnership with Bionics Queensland is motivated by our goal to ensure that those living with the mental and physical toll of injury and trauma have access to the world’s leading bionic devices, implants and treatments,” he said.

How bionic advances are impacting lives

Thousands of road accidents occur in Australia every year, causing devastation to communities and leaving families heartbroken and frightened by the unknown, as they navigate complex road accident trauma and injury. Survivors Brodie Ellis and Katie Buckman represent a community whose futures lie in more affordable bionic innovation and advanced healthcare solutions, so that they can live with enhanced quality of life.

27-year-old Brisbane man Brodie was involved in a car accident that resulted in above-the-knee amputation of one leg, blindness in one eye and severe head injuries. He subsequently became the first person in Australia to receive a 3D-printed skull. Despite suffering brain injury, he is fortunately still able to communicate well — making him a living, breathing miracle. He is currently mobilised by a temporary prosthetic leg and walking stick for short distances only while he awaits his first bionic leg (a robotically controlled limb with advanced microprocessor).

Brodie Ellis is reported to be the first person in Australia to receive a 3D-printed skull. He was involved in a car accident
that resulted in above-the-knee amputation of one leg, blindness in one eye and severe head injuries.

Similarly, local mum Katie also survived a near-fatal car accident in 2009 when she was only 19 years old, leaving her with severe spinal injuries that caused her to become paraplegic. Despite her extreme motor-accident injuries, Katie has triumphed following her initial rehabilitation, adjusting to her new-normal, which involves spending quality time with friends and embracing the small and big joys of life like going to the football, spending time with her kids and furthering her education. She currently utilises a wheelchair for mobility and is seeking prospects of bionic-enabled mobility solutions such as an exoskeleton to regain movement and aid further rehabilitation.

Katie Buckman survived a near-fatal car accident in 2009 when she was only 19 years old, leaving her with severe spinal injuries that caused her to become paraplegic. She is seeking prospects of bionic-enabled mobility solutions such as an exoskeleton to regain movement and aid further rehabilitation.

To find out more about the Bionics Challenge 2021 or to enter before 25 June, visit www.bionicsqueensland.com.au.

Main image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/Production Perig

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