Te Papa Hauora, the Christchurch Health Precinct, is a key anchor project in the Christchurch Central Recovery Plan - bringing together people and facilities. The Precinct will foster and develop partnerships and collaborations that drive innovation across the areas of health research, health professional education and development and clinical services.
Development of the Precinct is being led by The Health Precinct Advisory Council - a strategic leadership group comprising senior leaders of the tertiary health and education sectors: Canterbury District Health Board, University of Otago, University of Canterbury, and Ara Institute of Canterbury, working in partnership with Matapopore (the Canterbury Ngāi Tūāhuriri earthquake recovery group) and the Crown.
The Precinct will make a real long-term contribution to the economic well-being of Christchurch by attracting top quality researchers, businesses, students, health sector workers and associated staff to live and work in the city – indeed it will be a real magnet for talent.
Working with big data is key, as is more effectively linking the health system with industry to commercialise health technology, products and services. Importantly - given that proximity matters for innovation - opportunities exist for businesses to physically co-locate into the Precinct.
It will be simpler and easier for the business sector and collaborators to engage with Health through a single “front door” that provides immediate and coherent access to the capabilities residing in the Precinct.
The New Zealand Health Research Strategy released in June 2017 nicely sits alongside the Health Precinct’s research strategy, and will facilitate Precinct partners and collaborators to further drive innovation in the Precinct. Government strategy actions identified include more funding to support transformative and innovative ideas; creating industry partnerships, and strengthening infrastructure to support the translation of research into products and services that improve health outcomes.
Canterbury has a strong tradition of clinical research and of collegial links with industry and clinicians who are interested in new ways of doing things. Features that set Christchurch apart from other centres include a single teaching hospital; a single medical school and a single funder of health – making Christchurch an ideal location for research. Additionally, Christchurch researchers are considered to be ‘friendlies’ to the industry and are proven to be innovative and responsive. Examples include the highly successful MARS programme where clinicians and researchers have collaborated to develop a world first colour CT scanner, recently commissioning the prototype for small animals in the US. The B&M Gates Foundation use Canterbury Health Laboratories as a reference lab for their developing countries vaccination programmes.
Christchurch also has strong Māori research capacity at the Ngāi Tahu Research Centre based at the University of Canterbury, and Otago University’s Maori and Indigenous Health Institute. Engagement with these Centres together with Ngāi Tahu’s Hauora programme will help to identify new opportunities for innovation in Māori health research, workforce development and education.
The Health Research Education Facility (HREF) currently under construction will co-locate health education, professional development, and research activities into a purpose-built facility designed to maximise opportunities for collaboration and innovation. Ara’s undergraduate nursing, radiography and midwifery students, and UC’s postgraduate health science students will relocate into the HREF. The HREF will set the stage for partners and collaborators to create a truly unique and innovative health education and research environment that will be of international interest.
This is another good example of how the city is changing its offering and capability as it faces a bright future.