AUT sells sports technology overseas

14 Mar, 2024
AUT sells sports technology overseas
An athlete using the Hawkin TruStrength dynamometer developed by AUT Professor John Cronin

Two sports tech inventions developed by AUT’s School of Sport and Recreation have just been launched internationally.

The licensing deals to American and Australian companies reinforces AUT’s position as the only university of technology in New Zealand, and a world leader in sport and recreation research. And sports technology is an area with massive growth potential as the global market is estimated to grow from over $20 billion in 2022 to nearly four times this size by 2032.

World-renowned sports scientist Professor John Cronin, who is part of the AUT SPRINZ institute (Sports Performance Research Institute of New Zealand), teamed up with Kiwi Texas initially, who funded early prototype development, and recently with US sports tech company Hawkin Dynamics to commercialise performance tech called Hawkin TruStrength (HTS).

Developed by Prof Cronin, who specialises in strength and conditioning, and sports technology, is high spec, portable devicethatassists in removing subjectivity from athlete training and rehab. As anyone who’s been to a physical therapist would know, rehab is often based on subjective observation and feelings, rather than a rehab by numbers approach.

TruStrength is a portable fixed dynamometer, the size of a fist which can measure pushing (compressive) and pulling (tensile) forces from 1 N (100 gm) to 10,000 N (1000 kg). It can be easily moved between a rack and a plinth and then fixed to either piece of equipment.

“We're bringing a lot more quantitative accuracy to what they do and assists them in optimizing patient outcomes,” says Cronin. He continues that HTS is also a training tool, with previously hard-to-measure movements now quantifiable. Even low-tech training tools such as rubber-based resistance TheraBands can be attached to the dynamometer to produce objective data.

The impetus for TruStrength originated on the SPRINZ campus in Auckland, when John began collaborating with a PhD student seeking better isometric force measurements for high performance athletes — an assessment of one’s true strength, hence the name. As he says, “we’re a campus where industry and a university have come together. Our mantra is ask, answer, share.”

CEO of Hawkin Dynamics Ben Watson says: "We are thrilled that Professor Cronin is now a Product Consultant for Hawkin Dynamics. Joining him as consulting team members of Hawkin Dynamics are two SPRINZ members. We are very pleased that they will stay with the technology and help us to best market this innovative solution."

The other piece of tech, which has been licensed to Australian company Swift Performance Ltd, is called DynaSled. A wireless force-sensing device, it measures strength and leg imbalances and was created to optimise athletic performance training and the assessment of sports injury risk.

Developed by AUT sports and exercise science researchers Dr Matt Brughelli, Dr Matt Cross, and High-Performance Sport New Zealand PhD graduate Dr Farhan Tinwala, AUT Ventures helped the researchers to secure early-stage KiwiNet funding – government funding designed to help take University research from the lab to commercialisation.

The sled – a piece of equipment commonly used to resist sprint running – is fitted with a wireless force sensor. When the athlete pushes the sled via its handles or pulls the sled when tethered via a worn vest, various important data are recorded characterising movement, notably, force production.

“The DynaSled is exciting innovative technology because it allows for assessment of force production during a functional movement, such as sprinting overground. It allows for assessment of leg asymmetries in force production during sprinting, which is a risk factor for various lower limb injuries,” Dr Brughelli says.

“It also allows us to determine the optimised loading for each individual athlete, depending on their goal. As far as we know, this is the only sled technology that allows for such assessments during sprinting,” he says.

With help from AUT Ventures, the researchers collaborated with Swift Performance of Brisbane to develop the commercial version. Swift Performance has now licensed the technology from AUT and will market the product worldwide. The company will also fund AUT postgraduate research on the DynaSled with athletes.

Mark Fisher, founder and CEO of Swift Performance, says: “It’s great working with industry-leading sports science researchers and we hope to have a long-term partnership with AUT going forward to help commercialise the Sled technology.”

Michael Fielding, Chief Executive of AUT Ventures, said: “These are great examples of AUT researchers looking over the horizon and creating solutions to problems that other people might not have even realisedwere there. And commercialising with partners like Hawkin Dynamics and Swift Performance means that the research doesn’t just sit on a shelf – they’ll be actively marketing it to the people who can benefit the most.”

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