The first Health Innovation Living Lab in the Hunter region in New South Wales (NSW) has been inaugurated at John Hunter Hospital, fostering health research and innovation.

The lab, a partnership between Hunter New England Local Health District and the University of Newcastle, aims to address healthcare challenges in rural and regional communities.

It will focus on areas such as digital health, medical technology, sustainability in healthcare, and operations.

NSW Health Minister Ryan Park said: “This A$2.3m ($1.57m) lab is in addition to the NSW Government’s A$835m ($568.54m) John Hunter Health and Innovation Precinct.

“The Precinct will enhance facilities and provide additional capacity to meet the demands of the Greater Hunter, New England, and northern NSW regions.”

The lab provides opportunities for researchers, students, and industry partners to collaborate with clinicians and create innovative health programmes, products, and services.

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Several projects have already begun, including a bio-fabrication service leveraging 3D-printing for complex surgeries and virtual reality-based training for clinicians and students.

Hunter New England Local Health District chief executive Tracey McCosker PSM said: “We wanted to build something that addresses real-world healthcare challenges and ultimately improves the health and wellbeing of people in our rural and regional communities.

“The addition of the Health Innovation Living Lab makes us stand out as a truly research and innovation-driven institution that is working hard to deliver new and purposeful solutions for our patients from Newcastle and right across northern NSW.”