(Vienna, 5 May 2017) The company SimCharacters GmbH, a spin-off of MedUni Vienna, has won the Houska Prize 2017, which is the largest private research funding award. SimCharacters produces convincingly life-like child simulators to simulate medical emergencies as realistically as possible for educating and training doctors. The new company has managed to win the €150,000 prize in the category "Research & Development in SMEs".
Convincingly lifelike child simulators help to train medical teams for critical situations in paediatric emergency medicine under highly realistic conditions. In collaboration with the Center for Medical Physics and Biomedical Engineering of the Medical University of Vienna, the new Viennese company SimCharacters has developed the most realistic child simulator to date. When it was launched in October 2016, the "Paul" premature baby simulator was the smallest and most advanced high-end patient simulator in the world.
Paediatrician Jens-Christian Schwindt, who has been a consultant at MedUni Vienna and Vienna General Hospital's Division of Neonatology, Intensive Care Medicine and Neuropediatrics (Department of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine) for many years, is frequently called upon to care for critically ill premature and newborn babies and very quickly learnt that such patients can only be cared for effectively by a highly professional, interdisciplinary team. However, this level of professionalism can only be achieved by constantly practising complex processes as a team, without putting any patients at risk.
In 2010, Schwindt and his colleagues started a collaborative project with MedUni Vienna’s Center for Medical Physics and Biomedical Engineering (Project Leader: Ewald Unger) to develop a child simulator with an unprecedented degree of realism. The "Paul" premature baby simulator represents a premature baby in the 27th week of gestation and is able to realistically simulate the recognisable signs of illness, which are often very subtle in infants. In order to incorporate the necessary technology in a premature baby weighing just 1,000 g, it was necessary to develop completely new design concepts in terms of microelectronics, sensory analysis, mechanics and animatronics. For the very first time, key simulator components were successfully miniaturised and completely new, realistic functionalities were developed. The "Paul" simulator is currently the smallest and most advanced high-end patient simulator in the world.
About the Houska Prize
The Houska Prize, founded by the B&C private trust and endowed with €400,000 is the largest private research promotion prize in Austria. The B&C private trust has devoted itself to applied research within Austria and has been awarding funding to the best home-grown research projects in the form of the Houska Prize for twelve years now. The expert jury awards funding to projects in the two categories: "University Research" and "Research & Development in SMEs".