This is how Bruce Stokes describes himself, but the truth is that his “tinkering” has led to two spinout companies in two years, one of them a response to COVID-19.
He’s a biomedical engineer who trained with the University of Auckland’s bioengineering institute, went overseas and returned to work with the University’s Surgical Engineering Laboratory. The laboratory aims to connect engineering knowledge with clinical experience by designing, prototyping and testing novel surgical devices.
Think back only a few months to COVID-19 warnings about touching your face. Suddenly, many of us became aware that we touched our faces incessantly, usually without realising it. Touching our faces can spread bacteria and viruses in the normal world; in the COVID-19 world, this became a major problem.
Bruce and his colleagues came up with Elbaware, a New Zealand-based tech startup with a novel solution to the problem of face touching. Bruce is an Elbaware director and its Chief Engineer.
“We developed Elbaware in March 2020 in direct response to COVID-19 based on the idea of warning people they’re about to touch their faces, so we’re talking about a notification system.”
That’s as much as he can tell us at the moment. Bruce would love to talk about what he and his colleagues are doing, but they’re not quite ready to share details. It’s the same with another startup – Apercure Surgical – which has developed novel surgical drain technology that will improve patients’ post-operative recovery and care.
Apercure grew out of a Smart Ideas grant from the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment, and is funded by Return on Science (Auckland UniServices), ART funding (MedTech Centre of Research Excellence) and Callaghan Innovation.
Bruce talks about engaging with problems that matter. “That’s the key message because that’s where our technical expertise can help improve patient outcomes and support clinicians by asking the right questions.”
The Surgical Engineering Laboratory is a cross-faculty initiative between the Department of Surgery and Auckland Bioengineering Institute, focusing on developing medical devices with commercial potential. Engineers design, prototype, and validate devices in-house, and conduct pre-clinical and clinical trials for selected projects.