ARC Training Centre in Biodevices

PhD training program

The program is designed to develop future leaders in the medical device industry. The participants are outstanding students drawn from the disciplines of engineering, science, medicine, design and ICT, including recent graduates with relevant business or technology innovation experience.

Students undertake a structured three-year PhD program that links their core research activities with skills development in areas relevant to the medical device industry. Students spend at least one third of their time within industry environments.

In addition, students have the opportunity to take units from Swinburne’s Master of Entrepreneurship and Innovation during their first year.

Program structure

The BioReactor PhD program proceeds through three main stages.

Graphic depicts stages of the BioReactor PhD program structure in the ARC Training Centre in Biodevices
The diagram depicts the three stages of the BioReactor PhD program structure in the ARC Training Centre in Biodevices. Stage one involves identifying and screening an opportunity or problem to be solved. Stage two involves evaluating a solution by generating a concept, selecting a project and pitching it to clients. Stage 3 involves planning an R&D strategy for the concept, executing it, and then verifying and validating the results.

Above: The BioReactor PhD program structure.

Stage 1. Identify

Opportunity identification

Students are divided into multidisciplinary teams of 3-4 members and assigned academic and industry supervisors, before being immersed in end-user and Partner Organization environments. During this period, the students observe and identify problems in hospitals, pathology labs, clinics, nursing homes and aged care facilities, before developing needs statements.

Students take the coursework units Opportunity Discovery and Creativity and Innovation.

Opportunity screening

Students develop metrics for screening opportunities and try to identify a key insight into the problem that opens up the potential for a new solution. Students must also match potential opportunities with the interests and skills of the industry, academic and student stakeholders.

The supervisors continue to monitor progress and ensure that all stakeholders are adequately catered for between the teams. Each student must identify 2 – 3 projects to take forward to the next phase.

Stage 2. Evaluate

Concept generation

Students continue to work in teams to generate multiple possible solutions for each project. Once a large number of concepts have been generated, a further filtering process will occur, largely based on technical feasibility within the constraints of a PhD program.

Project selection

Students now undertake a more detailed study of the selected opportunities, analysing intellectual property, regulatory requirements, economic factors, Partner Organisation strategic interests, fundamental research questions and confirming availability of appropriate academic supervision. If necessary, students can conduct some practical evaluations (proof-of-concept).


At the end of this period, students pitch their project proposals to a group of our Partner Organisations, and each partner then selects the project that they want to pursue.

Students take the coursework units Opportunity Evaluation and Product Innovation.

Stage 3. Implement

Research and development (R&D) strategy and planning

Students are now embedded with the Partner Organisations to develop their detailed project plans, including a project Gantt Chart with clearly articulated milestones. Students are also expected to identify resources needed for the project, including access to specialised research facilities and expertise, together with a project budget. During this period, students meet their academic supervisor on a regular basis to discuss progress.


The students must now execute their project plan, spending approximately a third of their time with the Partner Organizations. Regular meetings are held with the supervisory team to monitor progress and provide specialist technical advice. While this phase is primarily an individual effort, regular workshops are held with guest speakers and all students can attend a major international conference combined with a study tour of an international medical device hub.

Verification and validation

Students need to demonstrate that their outputs (experimental results, prototype, system, etc.) comply with the requirements defined in the project plan. These outputs will also need to be validated by the stakeholders to confirm that they meet their needs.

This process also allows the project plan to be revised if necessary, which allows the flexibility that is needed to deal with the uncertainties that arise in fundamental research.

Students finally submit a thesis for examination.