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Firefighting virtual reality training startup FLAIM receives $6.7 million Series A

A virtual reality firefighter training startup spun out of Deakin University has raised $6.7 million Series A, with Victorian government investment fund Breakthrough Victoria taking a minority stake in the company for $5 million.

FLAIM Systems has developed what is considered the world’s first fully immersive virtual firefighting training system, providing a safe and cost-effective way to replicate the stress and uncertainty of real fire situations.

It combines a VR headset with haptic technology, which creates a kinesthetic “feel-real” experience by applying force feedback to the user. This includes simulating a working fire hose and a thermal vest that reproduces the heat experienced by firefighters in different scenarios from the direction of the fire.

Existing seed investors, including major shareholder Deakin University and Significant Capital Ventures, and FLAIM management and staff chipped in for the rest of the Series A. The startup’s CEO, Simon Miller, has invested $1 million since the Seed round four years ago.

The capital will be used to expand FLAIM’s business, further develop its technology and create 25 new jobs by 2026.

FLAIM emerged from Deakin in 2019 and has customers in over 300 emergency services, defence, training organizations and private companies across Australia, the US and the UK.

Pioneering Victoria chairman, John Brumby, a former state prime minister, knows the importance of training for first responders.

“Firefighters are risking their lives to keep our community safe – this innovation in virtual reality training will help them stay safe during training and provide the experience they need on the front lines,” he said.

“We see real potential for this the world’s first Victorian technology to be adopted by emergency services around the world.”

The FLAIM Trainer is both a safe and cost-effective way to train firefighters in the aftermath of the use of toxic chemicals at a Victorian training facility, which led to an increased risk of cancer for firefighters training there. Last year, the state government introduced a $57 million recovery scheme to support about 1,3000 firefighters who were exposed to the carcinogens while training at the former Fiskville training facility, which closed in 2015.

FLAIM Trainer tracks performance data from task completion time to air and water consumption, stress levels, where the learner moves and looks within the scenario, how they position themselves and interact with virtual objects in the scenario such as gas meters, electrical boxes, or the fire itself. It has 80 different VR training scenarios ranging from wildfires to fires on airplanes, industrial sites and homes.

Simon Miller said the new capital will set up FLAIM for global expansion.

“With the annual cost of firefighter injuries estimated by the U.S. Fire Service to be between $1.6 billion and $5.9 billion in the U.S. alone, and 14% of all training injuries, we see significant opportunities to commercialize FLAIM’s innovative Australian technology as we seek to protect the lives of those responding to hazardous fire, safety, rescue and emergency situations,” he said.

Many on the team are firefighters, including Chief Technical Officer Dr. James Mullins, a third-generation Victorian firefighter with a background in robotics engineering and virtual training capabilities.

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