17 October 2022

Stryker taps into Australian medtech innovation with new R&D Lab

US medtech giant Stryker has opened its first R&D Lab in Australia. Based in Brisbane, Queensland, the Lab will focus on digital health, robotics, clinical software and advanced manufacturing.

The investment will see Stryker work with some of Australia’s leading universities and medical research institutes.

‘Stryker touches the lives of more than 100 million patients globally each year,’ says Stryker Chair and CEO Kevin Lobo. ‘We have a strong heritage of innovation. The possibilities of what will be developed in this lab are inspiring.’

Australia: a leading destination for health innovation

Dr Homer Stryker, an orthopaedic surgeon, founded Stryker in 1941. Today, the company makes medical and surgical equipment, neurotechnology, orthopaedics and spinal products.

The company arrived in Australia in 1984. It now has over 800 employees in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide.

The genesis of the R&D Lab is the Just-In-Time project. This was a 5-year collaborative research project between Stryker and the following Australian organisations:

  • Innovative Manufacturing Cooperative Research Centre (IMCRC)
  • RMIT University
  • University of Melbourne
  • University of Sydney
  • University of Technology Sydney
  • St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne.

The project combined 3D printing, robotic surgery and advanced manufacturing to create just-in-time tailored implants for people with bone cancer. It transformed the development and delivery of implants for musculoskeletal tumour patients.

Brisbane’s medtech hub

Stryker’s new R&D Lab will be based in the Herston Health Precinct in Brisbane. The precinct is home to over 30 health facilities. It is also home to around 13,000 clinical and non-clinical scientists, researchers, students and other health workers.

‘This medtech ecosystem allows the R&D Lab’s researchers and engineers to collaborate with clinicians,’ says Maurice Ben-Mayor, President of Stryker South Pacific. ‘We can understand their current and future needs — all at the site of care.’

The R&D Lab builds on existing partnerships in Australia. This includes partnerships with clinicians, researchers, universities, healthcare providers and government.

‘These partnerships have demonstrated the power of collaboration,’ says Ben-Mayor. ‘The R&D Lab is poised to have a profound impact on the future of healthcare [and] we’ve expanded our focus to include digital health, robotics, clinical software applications and advanced manufacturing.’

Stryker Brisbane R&D Lab opening ribbon cutting ceremony. From left: QUT Vice Chancellor Professor Margaret Sheil, Stryker Chair and CEO Kevin Lobo, Queensland Minister for Health, Yvette D’Ath, and UQ Vice Chancellor Professor Deborah Terry.

Investment assistance from the Queensland Government

The Queensland Government provided a multimillion-dollar grant to support the R&D Lab’s establishment.

‘This new R&D base is testament to the world-leading scientific research talent and medical infrastructure we have here for global and local companies,’ says Yvette D’Ath, Queensland Minister for Health and Ambulance Services.

‘The new Stryker R&D Lab will mean Queensland researchers and patients will have access to the latest products and technologies.’

Austrade also supported Stryker’s investment. Advisers gave strategic input into its business case. They also introduced Stryker to state and federal government representatives.

Medical research with Australian universities

The new Lab includes academic partnerships: Stryker, Queensland University of Technology (QUT), The University of Queensland (UQ), Metro North Hospital and Health Service (MNHHS) and Queensland Health have entered a Master Research Agreement.

Projects include looking at how artificial intelligence and machine learning can improve healthcare applications. The aim is to develop new data-driven approaches to clinical problem solving. These could deliver faster, deeper insights to support real-time clinical decision-making. 

‘The establishment of the R&D Lab allows us to meaningfully collaborate with clinicians, researchers, scientists, and institutions from across Australia,’ says Lobo. ‘It allows us to transfer our leading research into real-world patient outcomes.

Aussie unis fired up by robotics prospects

University officials believe the tie-up will boost research into robotics.

‘The partnership with Stryker will provide another critical pathway for UQ research,’ says UQ Vice Chancellor Professor Deborah Terry. ‘We believe the collaboration between industry, academia and government will help drive community impact in Queensland, in Australia and around the world.’

QUT says its focus will be on digital health and robotics technologies. It foresees that these areas will take centre stage in medical innovation over the coming decades.

‘QUT has long been an international leader in robotics and biomedical engineering,’ says QUT Vice-Chancellor Professor Margaret Sheil. ‘We look forward to seeing how our researchers will work together with Stryker as a partner in this facility.’

Contributing to Australia’s COVID-19 response

Stryker has already experienced the agile capabilities of the Australian healthcare industry. In early 2020, the company harnessed the adaptability and innovation of Australia’s healthcare experts to make a major contribution to the country’s COVID-19 response.

Stryker worked with the Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre to develop an Emergency Relief Bed. Designed to accommodate patients in respiratory distress, the bed offered 30-degree head elevation, low height and an attached intravenous pole.

In just 6 days, Stryker partnered with 4 Australian manufacturers to adapt the bed’s design, build the prototype and start production. The Emergency Relief Bed presented a low-cost, scalable solution for the Australian Government. It has also been used to support Australia’s Pacific neighbours throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.