My excitement about our work with the Autism CRC is partly because it’s a great cause, but it’s really spurred by seeing such powerful innovation in Australia.

An app that has helped thousands of parents detect early signs of autism in their children – something that Salesforce staff are exceptionally proud to have been involved in developing – demonstrated the real-life impact of innovation. That app, which has been nominated for numerous awards, led Salesforce to become involved with the apps4autism Hackathon last week.

Innovate using existing technology

Before I get to the Hackathon, let me tell the fascinating story of the original app. Called ASDetect, it was created in partnership with academics at La Trobe University, who are world leaders in autism research and have educated thousands of nurses in various early-detection techniques. The nurses fed back information into the system from tens of thousands of case studies.

They were then faced with a classic scenario of compelling IP that is trapped geographically – a parent concerned about their child had to get to Melbourne’s La Trobe University.

That’s when came in and assembled a team to build the ASDetect app, which liberated the IP and made it accessible by anyone in the world.

The development of ASDetect is a great story and it excites me on a number of levels. Firstly, often people think innovation has to be incredibly difficult and groundbreaking – this innovation took existing technology and applied it in a different way to deliver a new capability. Once complete, it assumed a very real role in improving the lives of families.

Second is that it plays into the discussion of how Australia harnesses our IP and brings it to the world. We want to become an economy that exports knowledge, and this is a compelling example of how that might take place.

Third is the fact that it’s a great example of collaboration between industry and academia, which is another challenge we’re trying to solve here in Australia. How do we take all of the research within our universities and other institutions and bring it to the world?

The Hackathon

Our partnership on ASDetect led to another great collaboration with the Cooperative Research Centre for Living With Autism (Autism CRC) – the apps4autism Hackathon last week. It was an opportunity to brainstorm and present ideas for apps that will make a real difference in the everyday lives of people with autism.

Salesforce offered its technical expertise and technology to make the winning apps a reality and to launch them into the market, and I was honoured to be a judge.

This year’s winner, from an inspired pool of pitches, targets parents whose children are having speech challenges or who are simply slower to learn to speak. Part of the solution is an app that creates a fully interactive multimedia support framework, similar to a social network, for parents of those children.

Salesforce was delighted to support apps4autism because it combined two things we are extremely passionate about. One is philanthropy with a focus on improving the lives of many. The other is innovation, which is core to our DNA - particularly innovation that spurs social change.

It has been inspiring to be a part of the judging process. It’s like being allowed a peek behind the curtain of a theatrical production before the show begins. When you get that behind-the-scenes insight, you appreciate and enjoy the show so much more.

Want to find out more about innovation with Salesforce? Download New Products, Highlights and Innovations from Marc Benioff’s Keynote at Dreamforce 2016.