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News & Events April 18, 2024

A program that provides industry engagement opportunities and training in biomedical design thinking, while giving industry access to research talent has won a national award.

iPREP Biodesign, administered by The University of Western Australia on behalf of nine universities across the country, has been recognised with the 2024 Australian Council of Graduate Research Award for Excellence in Promoting Industry Engagement in Graduate Research.

iPREP Biodesign combines the Industry and PhD Research Engagement Program (iPREP) with Biodesign training, based on the globally best-practice Stanford Biodesign methodology.

PhD students are matched with industry partners for seven weeks or three months. In the first seven weeks of the placement, students receive Biodesign training to help them understand and validate industry needs before embarking on solutions, as well as undergoing employability training.

UWA’s Director Biomedical and Health Innovation, Professor Kevin Pfleger, Chair of Perth Biodesign and Biodesign Australia, and Head of Molecular Endocrinology and Pharmacology at the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research, said often academics were very good at making technical advances and then looking for a problem that could be solved by those advances.

“By getting students to think from the industry standpoint, we can build more effective collaborations,” Professor Pfleger said.

“Industry is more open to collaborations that solve their problems, rather than buying or licensing a new technology a university researcher has developed without first validating that it addresses an industry need.

“Once these partnerships are built, industry becomes more receptive to new ideas and new ways of thinking based on research evidence.”

iPREP Biodesign was nominated for the award by UWA’s Dean of the Graduate Research School, Professor Imelda Whelehan, who said the program had seeded fruitful academic-industry collaborations.

“It is a highly cost-effective mechanism for injecting research-driven innovation into industry practice with a low barrier to entry,” Professor Whelehan said.

“It has also become an excellent mechanism for industry to recruit talented new employees that fit with the needs and culture of the host company.”

Since 2020, 155 PhD students have worked on 61 projects with 30 industry partners through the iPREP Biodesign program. For further information on the program visit

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