The University of Newcastle, Australia

A global outlook from both sides of the table

With extensive expertise translating research into real-world applications, Professor Mark Flynn is paving a sturdy path for collaboration between research and industry at the University of Newcastle.

Mark Flynn

Beginning his academic career in audiology, Professor Flynn quickly transitioned from a role in research to working in industry around the world, giving him an intricate understanding of both sides of the equation.

“I’ve always had a global outlook, having lived in Australia, New Zealand, Denmark, China, Italy, Sweden and the USA throughout my career."

“My study of audiology translated well to a role in industry working on projects such as automated signal processing, fitting systems, connectivity to iDevices and implantability; how to take semi-implantable hearing devices and make them fully implantable, how to reduce the complexity of surgery and improving post-surgery healing processes."

“My various roles often involved interaction and research with universities from a seat at the table on the manufacturing side, which gave me a unique insight into what commercial partners want from joint projects,” he explained.

Game, set and match

A self-confessed ‘cheerleader and match-maker’, Professor Flynn’s unique experience has led him to his current role at the University of Newcastle, where he is committed to fostering and nurturing opportunities between researchers and industry partners.

“The role is really based around cheerleading and match-making to ensure we’re developing relationships which lead to a rapid translation from research to clinical practice in healthcare and furthermore into the community. I am particularly passionate about at home solutions."

“The University does very well with industry collaborations – we’re the highest ranked university in Australia for innovation connections as rated by AusIndustry – but it’s ensuring we’re continuing to partner with Industry to jointly solve the challenges of the health sector."

Professor Flynn quotes three main priorities to ensure further success in this area.

“First, we’re seeing increasing success in cross-collaboration by asking questions like ‘how can engineers, creative industries, or sociologists look at improving the quality of the delivery of healthcare?’. My passion is looking at how I can facilitate researchers to expand their parameters across faculties and schools to join forces with other bright minds who can complement their work."

“Second, let’s look at how we translate our research. Many people have discussed it takes around 17 years from research discovery to move into clinical practice, so we’re looking at how we can work together with the Hunter Medical Research Institute and the Local Health District to translate research faster. Working together, side by side and involving clinicians is key."

“That relationship is a great way to identify challenges in the healthcare system and put those at the top of our agenda so we can be working on projects of immediate application on the frontline."

“Third, facilitating engagement with industry. We’re working to orchestrate a multitude of events and programs aimed at showcasing the ground-breaking work at the University and demonstrating how it could translate to industry to provide real-world solutions for the community.”

Meeting the future needs of healthcare delivery

When it comes to healthcare in a global context, Professor Flynn stressed the needs of society are continuously evolving.

“Increasingly, we see healthcare becoming more complicated. There are greater demands, but society can’t afford to deliver that healthcare at the speed or level necessary to keep up."

“I’m focused on exploring how we improve the quality and value, provide better healthcare that meets the needs of people globally, while also keeping cost of delivering healthcare reasonable,” he said.

Professor Flynn highlighted the benefits of looking to our overseas partners for inspiration. Having worked extensively in Sweden, he said the strong research relationships between Newcastle and Gothenburg were a great resource moving forward.

“One thing that Sweden does really well is that it’s exceptionally fast at converting innovation from research to clinical practice, and has built funding models, processes and procedures to enable that fast translation."

“That’s one of the things we’d love to take and apply to our context here."

“Although we have to recognise it can be a slow process, we have unique opportunities in Newcastle through our strong ties with the local health district, as well as new centres for innovation in regional health who are at the coal face of healthcare delivery and can give us key insight into the needs of practitioners and community,” he said.

Having well and truly turned his attention from his own research to utilising his experience to empower others, Professor Flynn is looking forward to the next chapter in his career.

“Now it’s about working out the ways in which I can help to enable the success of others and provide tangible community benefit. We have huge potential here and I look forward to supporting the incredible range of projects translate from the University to real-world health applications for the people,” he said.