Tag Archives: research startups

open science platform

7 questions with Frankl Open Science founder

Frankl founder, Dr Jon Brock with neuropsychologist and dementia researcher, Professor Greg Savage.

Vast amounts of scientific data are collected every day, but a lack  of data sharing among researchers is resulting in a major research replication crisis. Luckily, startup Frankl Open Science,  the world’s first blockchain-integrated open science platform, has stepped up to address this major opportunity cost.

The platform integrates data sharing into the scientific workflow, allowing for automated, trackable data sharing. Frankl Open Science is the brain-child of cognitive scientist Dr Jon Brock and blockchain guru Peter Godbolt, who set out to create it easier and more rewarding for time-poor scientists to share data. We sat down with Jon to find out about the genesis of Frankl, the startup’s biggest successes and challenges and how open science will benefit the global research community.

1. What’s your career background?

I’ve spent most of my career in academia. I did a PhD in Psychology studying a rare genetic condition called Williams syndrome. I’ve also done research on Down syndrome, dyslexia, and autism.
I worked as a post-doc at Bristol and Oxford Universities in the UK and then spent 10 years at Macquarie University in Sydney where I was an ARC Australian Research Fellow in the Department of Cognitive Science and a Chief Investigator at the ARC Centre of Excellence in Cognition and its Disorders.

2. How did you first identify the business gap that led you to create Frankl?

Frankl is really the intersection of two ideas that arose from my experience as a researcher.
Back in the early 2000s, I was working on a couple of projects with kids with Down syndrome and then kids with autism. I noticed that when I gave them tests that involved using a touchscreen, they seemed to perform much better than they did on more traditional pen and paper tests we were using. It was as if the touchscreen was getting at their true abilities. And so when iPads came out and parents started saying that they were “unlocking” their kids’ abilities, it seemed obvious to me that iPad-based cognitive assessments were the way forward – not just for autistic kids but for everyone.
At the same time, I’ve been getting increasingly involved in the world of open science. Open science is really just the idea that science works best when it’s done transparently. But there are a number of barriers to open science – one of which is that it takes time and effort to do well and there’s actually very little incentive for researchers. For example, the time you spend curating your data, making sure that other people can find it, make sense of it, and actually use it, that’s time that you’re not doing other things like writing papers and grant proposals. A couple of years ago I was talking to a friend, Alex Holcombe, who’s a professor at the University of Sydney. He told me how he programmed his experiments so that all the data curation was effectively built into the data collection. Most people don’t have Alex’s technical skills. So our idea was to build all of these data curation capabilities into the apps we’re making so that anyone can be an open scientist and can share their data in a way that’s meaningful and useful.
It’s good for researchers, but it’s also good for the organizations who are funding research, whether that be government, philanthropy, or business. Ultimately, they want the best return on their investment in science. And giving scientists the tools they need to collaborate and share their data more openly is one of the best ways of achieving that return.

3. What have been the biggest challenges in your first year?

For me personally, the biggest challenge has been getting my head around the technology side of things as well as the business and legal aspects. Frankl co-founder, Peter Godbolt, has been working in tech for a long time – in web and app development and then more recently in blockchain and cryptocurrencies. There are huge opportunities in bringing together the worlds of science and tech, but it’s been really important to make sure we’re not talking past each other or proposing solutions that make sense in one world but not in the other.
This is all made even more challenging by the rapid changes in the tech space over the last year. There’s a lot of uncertainty. For example, we’re using blockchain as part of our solution, creating a supply chain from raw data to scientific paper. When we started Frankl in January, there was a huge amount of excitement about blockchain and cryptocurrencies. Since then, that the bubble has burst. In the long run, that’s a good thing. It means that the projects that survive are going to be the ones who provide a genuine use case for the technology and who actually build products that people want.

4. What’s been the best part and your biggest successes?

The most exciting part for me has been really getting to know some of the tech and then thinking about how that can be applied to solve problems in science. One of the things we’ve been saying all along is that a lot of the solutions already exist. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel. I really believe that.
Probably our biggest success so far was getting an Open Research Fund grant from the Wellcome Trust. The grant was for a simple memory test designed by our collaborator, neuropsychologist Professor Greg Savage, for use with patients with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. But it incorporates lots of features that make it easy for people to store their data securely and share with the right people, both in a research context and as a clinical tool. There were 96 applications and I think just 8 awards, so it was really fierce competition. It’s allowing us to move quickly now on building the software. But it’s also really validating for us to have an organisation like Wellcome say that they believe in what we’re doing.

5. What is your advice for people working in research and looking to move into a startup?

If you’ve got a good idea then it’s definitely worth thinking about a startup. Academics are often quite dismissive of commercialisation – we think of science as this noble pursuit of knowledge and the idea of making money is somehow dirty or a distraction. But sometimes, turning an idea into a business is actually the best way to move things forward and translate an idea or finding into something that actually makes a difference to people’s lives. It might also be more sustainable in the long run. The problem with relying on research grants is that eventually they run out and all your hard work can go to waste if there’s no continuing support. So having a sustainable business model can be a good way of ensuring that you have the most immediate but also the longest lasting impact.

6. How can open science benefit the science research community as a whole?

One way that open science benefits the research community is by giving greater trust in research findings. Science works because you don’t have to trust scientists – you trust the evidence, the data – and because you know how the data were collected and analysed. So the more open it is, the less you have to take on trust. There’s a lot of concern at present about the trustworthiness of scientific findings. When people try and replicate other people’s studies, they often get quite different results. Conducting research more openly is one way of addressing those concerns.
But there’s more to open science than that. Isaac Newton famously talked about “standing on the shoulders of giants”. Science isn’t something that can be done in isolation. We gain new knowledge more quickly if we can build on other people’s work – their ideas, their methods, their data. So open science means more rapid discoveries as well as more reliable findings. For example, we’re increasingly seeing major discoveries being made by people who haven’t actually collected the data themselves but have re-analysed existing data that other researchers have shared openly.
That’s why the organisations that fund research, particularly the big philanthropic organisations like the Gates Foundation and the Wellcome Trust are really pushing researchers to behave more openly. Open science means that they get the biggest knowledge return on their investment in scientists.

7. What does the next 2 years look like for Frankl?

Our priority right now is to push forward with the development of our prototype application. Once people have something concrete – an app they can download and they can run and see where all the data is going – it becomes easier to imagine how the same concept and the same principles can be applied to other scientific contexts.
It also means that we can easily repurpose the code from that first app to build other apps that test slightly different things. That’s where my academic connections are really useful. We’ve got a queue of researchers with apps that they want building. And so in parallel to the app development, we’re busily building relationships with research organisations whose goals align with our own and who see value in Frankl for their researchers. There are lots of opportunities here for cooperative research partnerships, linkage grants and so on.
We’re also increasingly thinking about the direct clinical applications of what we’re doing. The solutions we’re creating for researchers – user-friendly assessment apps, secure data management and permissioned data sharing – are also directly applicable to clinical contexts. For example, parents of kids with disabilities tell us that one of the real challenges they face is getting bounced from one specialist to another, with very little communication between them. Having an app that facilitates sharing of assessment results between clinicians and parents could be incredibly powerful – and empowering.
In the longer term, we’re thinking about the bigger picture in science. It makes sense for us to focus initially on psychology and cognitive science because that’s where we have expertise and we know there’s a big market for cognitive tests. But the general principles of making open science part of a frictionless scientific workflow is something that translates to lots of different areas of research. So we’re always very happy to speak to people in any area of science, tech, or business who can see broader applications for what we’re doing.
Learn more about Frankl Open Science  on their website, Twitter, Facebook and  Bitcoin Talk Forum.

Highlights from the Spark Festival’s Spin on Spinouts

This week, the Spark Festival’s ‘The Spin on Spin-Outs’ event showcased five spinout founders who have commercialised research from CSIRO’s Data61.

As founders of new technology-based spin-outs, they discussed what it took to transition from researchers to entrepreneurs, and offered advice on accessing the funding and support required to commercialise research.

We’ve brought you the top tips on launching a successful spinout, from both spinout founders and investors at the event.

 

Meet the spinout founders;
  • Dr Silvia Pfeiffer is CEO and cofounder of Coviu, a platform that provides universal access to healthcare.
  • Dr Stefan Hrabar is CEO and cofounder of Emesent, a company formed to commercialise cutting edge drone technology developed by CSIRO’s Data61 Robotics Group, providing access to critical data in challenging underground environments.
  • Dr Anna Liu is Head of Public Sector Partnerships at Amazon Web Services. She founded and was CEO of Yuruware, the world’s first Disaster Recovery platform designed to simplify the migration, replication and disaster recovery process.
  • Pete Field is founder of Ayvri, a company using 3D virtual world technology to enable participants in major sporting and adventure events like RedBull’s Wings For Life to preview their adventure and to visualise their race in 3D through live tracking.
  • Matt Barbuto founded Ynomia, a platform that digitises realworld construction projects enabling builders to have visibility over what is moving in and out of the construction site.

 

Advice from the Founders: How to make the leap into a spinout.

 

  • Join accelerator programs;

CSIRO’s On Accelerator, and Data 61’s many platforms exist to prepare researchers and their research projects for commercialisation. The programs offer mentors, advisors, and the opportunity to gain entrepreneurial skills. Accelerators “focus you on on your business model,” says Pfeiffer, and “help sort out who are the people that are ready and willing to go out and start a business.”

Accelerators can also be the place to make the right connections. “We got to know some amazing investors and advisors through the ON program,” says Hrabar. “They had seen the journey we’d gone through and understood where we had come from and lined up well from the investment point of view.”

 

  • Choose the right people to build business relationships.

Get support from others. “You don’t need to be an expert in everything,” says Barbuto. “Knowing your strengths and knowing where you need other people to come in and help – that’s your job as a CEO,” Field agrees.

Seek mentorship from your Board members, and choose investors for what they can bring to benefit you, says Liu. “I wasn’t interested in taking just money because I was looking for business growth advice.”  

 

  • Get comfortable giving a sales pitch.

Speaking sales can be quite a shift in mindset for a researcher. Be prepared to transition from ‘precise’ researcher, to ‘predictive’ sales person.

“Researchers are taught to be very thorough in everything you do. Creating a start-up is more about predicting the future and there is no hard data. You are making things up,” says Pfeiffer. Be assured that investors understand that it is always a guess when you are talking about markets. You need to be comfortable selling your best guess.

 

Advice from the Investors: How to impress with your pitch.

In the second half of the event, the panel was joined by investment managers Martin Duursma from Main Sequence Ventures, and Natasha Rawlings from Uniseed.

Here are their best tips for researchers wanting to impress an investor;

 

  • Know your customers;

Investors want to see that you understand your customer, says Duursma. “Please go out and network in the industry, and ask about their big problems. Go to trade shows, walk the floor, cold call, join associations. Figure out if you’re solving a problem the customer actually has, and if they want your solution.”

 

 

  • Speak about your business model;

Talk to investors about the business side of your start-up, not just the tech. “What we really like hearing about is money,” says Rawlings. “Who is your customer? What is your product? How much are you selling it for? What is the margin on that? How many of these things do you think you can sell?” These are the ‘boxes to tick’ to secure a second meeting with an investor.

 

 

  • Follow up and follow through;

Investors are looking for signals about you, so be sure to follow through on any promises you make. “If the researcher says ‘yes I’ll get this thing to you by the end of the week, if that thing doesn’t happen, that’s a bad signal,” said Duursma.

“You’ve got to be easy to work with,” said Rawlings. “If you are not easy to work with we probably can’t invest in you no matter how good your tech is.”    

– Carmen Spears

 

This event was hosted by Inspiring Australia as part of the 2018 Spark Festival.

To see more events from the Spark Festival program click here

To learn more about Inspiring Australia’s activities and achievements click here.

Noushin

From great idea to start-up

Dr Noushin Nasiri is looking at how to commercialise research. A post doctorate researcher from UTS, whose breath sensing technology has attracted much interest from industry, Noushin always imagined herself working in a university rather than in industry, but is now ready to consider a wider range of options. A panel of experts looks at how Noushin can move forward in working with industry from within academia.

How to commercialise research – The scientist

A great idea plus communicating it widely – Noushin Nasiri

Noushin Nasiri

My research has the potential to create my own company, but I am not interested in that – my passion is research so I want to stay in the lab and have my own group. But I don’t want to just publish papers in high-impact journals, I want to commercialise my work.

In an academic career, you move from PhD to postdoc. You are encouraged to be isolated and then publish a high-impact factor paper that’s highly cited. In the 3rd year of my PhD I told my supervisor I wanted to go on a journey with science communication. Yet in research, science communication is seen as a hobby rather than a requirement – it’s “harmless”.

I started with the 3 min thesis competition, then Famelab and then presented at TedX, which was a turning point in my life. I presented my research in a variety of environments over eight months. My colleagues told me to go back to the lab! But when I went back to academia at UTS I was approached by four companies interested in investment in my research.

I think there is a big gap at university in that science communication is seen as a hobby. I think it’s something necessary that should be taught as part of your degree.

Since I was a kid I wanted to be a teacher. Then I thought it would be easier to be a professor at uni. If I had to have my own company, I think I’d still like to do research. My own research is very broad, and there are many diseases that the device I’ve created can work across.

I still need to learn how to commercialise research. The sensors can save human lives, so if you commercialise it you can get this out to market. We want to commercialise it but we still need to get advice from people who are experienced in commercialisation.

WATCH Noushin in Famelab

Industry responses to help to commercialise research

Natasha Rawlings, Venture Captialist at Uniseed

If you want to commercialise research and bring your idea to the world, my advice is to work with university incubators, learn some of the hands-on commercialisation skills, and have conversations about customer evaluation, and whether there are customers for your product. It’s about birthing your idea into a company.

Investors look for three things: people, product and opportunities – and that is where customer evaluation is really helpful. Are people going to pay for this, and if so, how much? As a venture capitalist you need to report to your shareholders, and know what the research is going to look like in five years’ time. The missing piece for Noushin is the team and the customer potential – how much will it cost to commercialise and how will people pay for it?

Gavin Recchia, Principal, Davies Collison Cave Pty Ltd

We’ve hear a lot about communicating. I agree wholeheartedly with that. Publish or perish is a myth – it’s untrue that there’s tension between publishing your research and protecting it via IP. It’s just a matter of timing – the publishing needs to come after patenting.

If you are in an area that has commercialisation potential then IP is important. Think about whether you need patent protection in place before you go out with the information. Until you have the IP locked away, keep communicating – but keep it general. Go an talk to the tech transfer office at your uni, get them to talk about IP professionals about your ideas. There’s a whole suite of different forms of IP and you need to find out what is the best possible protection for you.

Many people think commercialisation and entrepreneurship is an either/or journey. You can be both and can be a scientific entrepreneur, or someone who works entrepreneurially within your organisation. If you are thinking about what your customer needs, then you are on that entrepreneurial journey.

When people invest in tech they are investing in you, and what you will come up with in the future also. We need to improve the way we communicate in a positive sense, and be better at talking things up.

This feature was developed as part of the Spark Festival Sydney. Read next: Top 25 R&D spin off companies.

– Heather Catchpole

research startups

Research startups accelerate CSIRO science

Featured image above: Research startups pitch at the ON Accelerate demo night. Hovermap have developed intelligent software that will allow drones to map indoor environments.

There are now over 30 accelerator and incubator programs in Australia, but CSIRO’s ON accelerator is the only one focused on equipping research startups with the tools they need to grow.

“It’s the first time a program of this sort has been offered for the research community on this scale,” says Elizabeth Eastland, the General Manager for Strategy, Market Vision and Innovation at CSIRO.

Just six months ago, Eastland was the Director of the University of Wollongong’s iAccelerate program, but moved to CSIRO having been “blown away by what this program can offer researchers”.

At the ON Accelerate Demo event held on Thursday 7 July, Eastland introduced 11 research startups who pitched their products to Sydney’s venture capital investors. In contrast to the young faces that dominate many of Australia’s accelerators, last night’s ON cohort were led by experienced researchers, engineers, developers and entrepreneurs.

Two of the research startups revealed big plans for the agriculture industry. A group called Future Feed is selling seaweed supplements that aim to reduce livestock greenhouse gas emissions by 80%. Another team has created wireless trapping technology to help farmers detect fruit fly infestations.

Fruit Fly costs farmers US$30 billion in fruit and vegetable production around the world, but this isn’t the only global challenge that the ON research startups have been tackling. The presenter from Modular Photonics pointed out last night that the world’s internet demand is about to outstrip its fibre capacity.

His group is commercialising new photonics hardware compatible with both old internet fibre and the new fibre being developed by the top telecommunications providers.

On the health front, another of the research startups, ePAT unveiled new facial recognition software to detect pain levels in people who cannot speak, such as children and elderly people with moderate to severe dementia. Their vision is that “no patient who cannot speak will suffer in silence in pain”.

ON Accelerate had major success earlier this year when a German company launched a gluten free beer brewed from barley commercialised by a startup from last year’s ON cohort. That startup, known as Kebari, is in now the process of developing another form of gluten free grain for use in food.

Kebari co-founder and scientist Dr Phil Larkin spoke at yesterday’s research startups event, saying ON Accelerate had taught him about ‘flearning’ – learning from failure – and the importance of interrogating the entire delivery chain to validate the value of a solution.

CSIRO Principal Research Scientist and RapidAIM team leader Dr Nancy Shellhorn said that the program had given her much faster access to the market and much better insight into customer needs.

“It’s given me and the RapidAIM team a runway to the science of the future that will be truly impactful,” said Shellhorn.

Program Mentor Martin Duursma also spoke at the research startups event, saying that startup skills are very transferable to research teams because they are all about trying something, gathering feedback, making improvements and repeating the process.

“Startup skills are really just a variant of the scientific method,” said Duursma.

And scientists will have greater access to the ON research startups program next year, with a dramatic increase in the interest of universities. Eastland says that 21 of Australia’s 40 universities have now signed on to be ON partners. Macquarie University and Curtin University led the pack with their involvement this year. UNSW Australia, the University of Technology Sydney and Monash University are among those jumping on board for the next round.

– Elise Roberts


ON Accelerate Research Startups

The below information was first shared by CSIRO. Read the original list and team members here.

1. Hovermap

The future of asset inspection.

“Every year, Australia loses billions of dollars due to infrastructure failures, spends billions of dollars on inspecting its aging assets and loses some of its bravest men and women who take the risk to do this dull and dangerous job. Utility companies and governments are turning to Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) to reduce costs and improve safety. However, current UAVs are ‘dumb and blind’ so require expert pilots and can’t fly in many places.

Our solution is an intelligent UAV with advanced collision avoidance, non-GPS flight and accurate 3D mapping capabilities – all tailored to suit industrial inspection requirements. Hovermap is the ultimate inspection tool of the future that can be used to safely and efficiently inspect hard-to-reach assets and collect extremely high fidelity data in previously unreachable places. It is suitable for inspecting telecommunication towers, bridges, power line assets and smoke stacks. This innovative technology will reduce risks, improve safety and efficiency and lower costs, all of which benefit customers and businesses.”

2. Suricle

Changing the face of polymers.

“We change the face of polymers by embedding functional particles into the surface to give them new and useful properties. Our patented technology paves the way for development of many new, innovative materials and products.

An immediate area of application is to protect high-value marine sensors from biofouling. The unwanted growth of marine organisms causes signal attenuation, sensor malfunction, increased weight and unwanted drag due to ocean currents. There are many thousands of marine sensors deployed globally, costing up to $120K each, which require frequent cleaning to keep them in service.

Suricle are focusing on treating adhesive polymer films with antifouling properties for attachment to sensors to mitigate biofouling. Kits containing this film will be sold via our e-commerce store for application in the field by the end-users, offering savings of thousands of dollars per year in reduced maintenance costs.”

3. RapidAIM

Supporting and growing global fruit and vegetable export markets

“Fruit Fly are the number one biosecurity issue in fruit and vegetable production. Globally US$30b worth of fruit and vegetable production is lost due to fruit fly, and $US18b in global trade is threatened by the pest.

Millions of fruit fly traps across the globe are checked manually, causing delay and risking outbreaks. This can close markets!

RapidAIM is a new era in biosecurity. We provide a service of real-time alerts for the presence and location of fruit fly using wireless trapping technology. This immediate data-driven decision service allows biosecurity agencies, growers and agronomists to respond rapidly to fruit fly detection to control the pest.

This allows for targeted workflow, the protection of existing markets and supports the development of new trading opportunities.”

4. ExByte

Predictive data analytics for preventative maintenance of infrastructure assets including water 

“Each year 7,000 critical water main breaks occur in Australia resulting in billions of dollars in rectification and consequence cost. In contrast, the cost of preventative maintenance is only 10 per cent of the reactive repair cost. The ExByte team has developed a disruptive technology that uses data analytic techniques to predict failure probability based on learned patterns, offering a solution to accurately predict water pipe failures resulting in effective preventative maintenance and a reduction in customer interruptions.”

5. Future Feed

A natural feed additive from seaweed that dramatically reduces livestock methane and increases production.

“The world is under increasing pressure to produce more food and producing more food is contributing to climate change. Livestock feed supplementation with FutureFeed is the solution. It can improve farm profitability and tackles climate change. FutureFeed can also provide farmers access to other income streams through carbon markets and provide access to premium niche markets through a low carbon footprint and environmentally friendly product.”

6. elumin8

An energy efficiency product that empowers households to understand and reduce their energy consumption.

“It is very difficult for households to improve their energy efficiency and transition to a sustainable future as current solutions are boring, costly and confusing. Elumin8 solves this problem by providing tailored energy information via a unique communication channel, allowing homeowners to directly engage with their home in a human and personable way as though it was another member of the family. Elumin8 also guides the household step by step along the journey to energy independence by improving energy efficiency and taking the risk and confusion out of installing solar and batteries.

We do this by collecting electricity data from a single sensor and use unique algorithms to disaggregate the data and determine appliance level consumption. Social media applications and advanced analytics are then utilised to connect the homeowner with their home allowing instant and humanised communication to ensure they are engaged with their energy use.”

7. Coviu

An online face-to-face business transaction platform.

“The way we work is changing. We need tools to enable those changes.

Traditional video conferencing tools are clunky and do not support experts like coaches, clinicians or lawyers in delivering and charging for their professional services online.

Coviu is the solution. Professionals get a frictionless and easy-to-use solution for setting up online consulting rooms and invite clients to rich interactive consults. One click and your client is talking to you in their browser – no software installations, no complicated call setup.

Coviu is a groundbreaking new video and data conferencing technology that works peer-to-peer allowing for massive scalability, speed and affordability.”

8. Reflexivity

A process that helps mining companies proactively manage community sentiment before conflict occurs.

“When resources companies lose the trust of the communities they work alongside, conflict occurs. Projects take twice as long to develop as they did a decade ago and cost 30 per cent more than they should because of social conflict. Companies don’t have the tools to systematically understand what their communities think about them, and communities have few constructive ways to feel heard.

Reflexivity has solved this problem by providing our customers with a sophisticated data analytic engine that translates community survey data we collect into prioritised opportunities for trust building and risk mitigation strategies. Our analytics identify those factors that build and degrade trust in a company, in the minds of community members; our customers are then able to invest resources and energy into the issues that matter most. Using mobile technology, our data streams to our customers in real time via a subscription model.

We have engaged over 14,000 community members in eight countries, and generated $1.5m in revenue in the last three years. And while we started in mining, our process is valuable wherever these relationships are important. We are building a service delivery platform to scale up our process and we are seeking support and advice to turn our successful global research program into a successful global business.”

9. Meals by Design

Healthy convenience never tasted so good!

“Ready-to-eat convenience doesn’t have to result in dissatisfaction and guilt. By bringing together the latest innovations in food manufacturing, including High Pressure Thermal processing, and an understanding of the nutritional needs of a diverse population, cuisine favourites can be prepared in a convenient format without compromising eating satisfaction or, importantly, nutrition.

Meals by Design develops premium and customisable meal solutions that cater to nutritional and functional needs, offering healthy convenience without compromise.”

10. ePAT

Real-time pain assessment through facial recognition technology for patients that cannot verbally communicate.

“Imagine you are in excruciating pain, but you can’t tell anyone. This is the reality for millions of non-communicative people world-wide, such as those with moderate to severe dementia. ePAT’s point of care apps utilise facial recognition technology to detect facial micro-expressions which are indicative of pain, to provide these people with a voice.”

11. Modular Photonics: big fast data

Passive fibre-optic technology that significantly increases data transmission capacity.

“Modular Photonics uses a novel integrated photonic chip to enhance the data rate across existing multimode fibre links by 10x and more. The technology enables multiple data channels in parallel without the length restrictions imposed by conventional multimode fibre links.”