Better animal welfare with new digital measurement technology
For SLU researchers Marie Rhodin and Elin Hernlund, the aim is to expand their world-leading research group in orthopedics and biomechanics and create more digital tools that reach out to society. Research and technology are already in place to develop the first digital tool and start a commercial collaboration. A development phase where the collaboration with SLU Holding is important, provides security and sends an important signal according to the two researchers.
The fact that the focus is on developing digital tools is no coincidence. The two researchers Marie Rhodin, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Anatomy, Physiology and Biochemistry (AFB) and Elin Hernlund, Researcher and Clinical Veterinarian at the University Hospital Equine Clinic defended their doctoral theses during the same period as when the technology for measuring and analysing movement patterns, began to become interesting for clinical use.
Advanced measurement technology reveals lameness in horses
During the autumn, a mobile app based on their research and technology development was tested and evaluated. With the help of the app, which performs advanced analysis of video films, owners can film their horses themselves to detect and measure the lameness of a horse. The digital measurement tool is also available in a version aimed at specialised veterinarians working in the field.
- It’s fantastic to be able to make the technology accessible and offer an evidence-based tool and advanced measurement methods at low cost. Our driving force is a big and strong interest in animals, especially horses. The huge potential of our research makes it impossible not to take it further and commercialise it. Lameness is a major problem when it comes to animal health which also involves huge costs. We want the owners to be able to find out early if a horse is lame. We are contributing to the development of a new technology, which has a practical application and helps horse owners, and therefore we are reaching out to others with our knowledge, says Marie.
Major similarities between research and entrepreneurship
For both Elin and Marie, the difference is neither large nor dramatic when it comes to entrepreneurship vs. research. On the contrary. As they see it, running a research project has much in common with working in a company. It is about setting time frames and sticking to them. Delivering results. As a researcher, it is also about being creative, being good at problem formulation and finding solutions. A role that Marie and Elin think is broadly in line with the role and duties of an entrepreneur.
Building strong teams with different skills
- Although the similarities are many, you need help and inspiration from outside to take an idea and a technology further. Not least, you need to build a strong team. This means not more of the same, but rather starting collaborations with people who have different skills than you have. With our project, we are working on the peripheries of both biology and computer science in a strong team together with Axel Nyström, a dynamic entrepreneur with the same ideas as us and the knowledge that is needed, which includes machine learning, an area he has been working in since defending his doctoral thesis at Oxford, says Elin.
Another factor that means a lot to Marie and Elin is the collaboration with SLU Holding.
SLU Holding provides valuable security
- For us, the research is number one. Entrepreneurship is also important, and working together with SLU Holding has enabled us to sort out the roles a little better. It is important that we, based on our research results, get help to understand what the need and interest in society looks like for the products we can develop. The opportunity to brainstorm ideas, discuss what is socially beneficial, and looking at what feedback we as researchers and entrepreneurs can get are other examples of things that we have discussed together as well as legal issues and the important question of patents.
For Marie and Elin, the collaboration with SLU Holding is also an important signal to the outside world that gives the two researchers security in their work.
A big interest in animals as the driving force
- We are not used to working in the borderland between research and entrepreneurship. Our driving force is research and our huge interest in animals, in particular our very special interest in horses. Since we have both been horse owners, we understand the problem. Now we can contribute with our knowledge. For us, it is an obligation to contribute. We have the knowledge and a position that makes it possible. We are also extremely inspired by our students and PhD students. We simply love horses and want to contribute, says Marie.
And to contribute is their goal for the coming years.
World leaders in five years
- Yes, in five years, we do not just want to be world leaders in our field of research. We also want more collaborations to be started with business partners where we can ensure the validation of more products in our field, products which we can then take to the market. It is important that the products have sufficient quality and accuracy. We already have in place the research and technology required to develop more spin offs and find commercial collaborations. We will offer more digital tools and our technology will be world leading when it comes to mobile apps in our field, says Marie Rhodin, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Anatomy, Physiology and Biochemistry (AFB) and Elin Hernlund, Researcher and Clinical Veterinarian at the University Hospital Equine Clinic.