The Aged Care Centre for Growth and Translational Research has $13 million in grants to give to residential and home aged care providers to implement an evidence-based solution that solves an identified problem, an industry conference has heard.

The $33 million Aged Care Centre for Growth and Translational Research at Flinders University, which opened its doors in March, was a recommendation of the Aged Care Workforce Taskforce’s 2018 report A Matter of Care.

The centre has several initiatives underway to facilitate the take up of innovation including a Knowledge and Implementation Hub available to all that will present research evidence in lay language. There’s also the Innovator Training Program for the aged care workforce, the Aged Care Partnering Program, which is an incubator to progress scalable projects, and the grants program, the centre’s director of research Professor Sue Gordon told the ITAC Conference in Sydney this week.

“I have $13 million dollars to give away and that is an opportunity that the aged care sector has never had before. And these are to address industry-facing problems, not research-driven inquiry,” Professor Gordon told ITAC delegates on Tuesday during a panel session on quality digital aged and community care.

“If you’re employed in the aged care sector providing care, then you’re eligible to apply.”

Professor Sue Gordon

The centre expects to offer about 60 grants before the end of next year with each valued up to $200,000 and a total of $13 million. And it wants providers to go to them with their ideas rather than the other way around.

“It’s a flip and that’s challenging for the sector as well,” Professor Gordon told Australian Ageing Agenda at the event. “They’re very used to people coming to them and saying, ‘you need this’, or ‘you should be doing that in terms of research or projects.’ But this is actually about what is your pain point?”

Multiple program, grant opportunities available

The centre has already piloted the innovator training and partnering programs and opened the first grant round for supporters of the centre’s application. There are further opportunities open to everyone this year and next.

Grants are for 12 months, and applicants need to contribute 20 per cent of the funded amount. Half of the grants are earmarked for people participating in the centre’s innovator training and partnering programs. Another 20 per cent of funding is for projects that will benefit Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander people and the remaining 40 per cent is open to anybody.

“This is where I take the opportunity for technology vendors to come in and think about the things they would like to do.”

The Innovator Training Program aims to build “skills to make evidence-based change” and applicants must have a sponsor from their organisation to ensure organisational buy in, said Professor Gordon, who leads the training program. The innovators learn how to choose best-practice solution for their problem, implement and evaluate the solution, and do a pitch, she said.

“After the Innovative Training Program, they have a project plan of how [they are] going to do this,” Professor Gordon said. “Those projects that are scalable – that could have national impact – go into the Aged Care Partnering Program, which is that incubator.”

However, many participants can go back to their organisation with a project plan and do it internally, she said. “They don’t necessarily need a $200,000 grant to do it. There are different pathways.”

A quarter of participants from the innovator training pilot went into the partnering program. The five-week incubator aims to bring the right team together to do the project, Professor Gordon said.

“This is where I take the opportunity for technology vendors to come in and think about the things [they] would like to do. What are the organisations that you could support? How can we help you build those networks so that you are able to do the trials; get the evidence that you need?”

Participants of the incubator program write the grant application as part of the process and then go into the grant round. The centre closed off applications for the second round of the Innovator Training Program at the beginning of July but applications for the third round of this program and second round of grants open to everyone on 29 August and 5 September respectively.

“If you’re employed in the aged care sector providing care, then you’re eligible to apply. You need your sponsor; you need your organisation on board and you just need to come with the problem,” Professor Gordon said.

While still new, the centre is in the process of rebranding. All will be revealed on 5 August when the centre’s website goes live. In the meantime, you can read more about the centre here, and innovator training program here.

Main image: Professor Sue Gordon speaking at the ITAC Conference, with (from left) Professor Wendy Chapman, Professor Johanna Westbrook and Maria Paz seated behind her.

Australian Ageing Agenda is ITAC’s principal media partner

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