Entrepreneurial engineer recognised with Pandemic Service Award

evan martin
Evan Martin

A Monash science graduate is one of four Australians recognised by the Royal Academy of Engineering for their IT engineering work on the HEROES charity platform.

Awarded the prestigious Pandemic Service Award, Evan Martin (BSci), with three colleagues, has been recognised for his transformative work to develop Help Them Help Us, a platform that allows National Health Service (NHS) workers to apply for donations to help with their additional costs incurred during the pandemic.

“From the first day, the charity has all been about providing practical support on the ground,” says Evan.

In less than two days, the team turned an idea into a platform with genuine impact – creating a secure website to provide much-needed support for frontline NHS workers. Their work has contributed to the provision of more than 580,000 support items to healthcare workers, including sustainable personal protective equipment, physical, mental and financial support, counselling services, meals, childcare, relief grants, and more.

“HEROES’ mission is to support the physical and mental wellbeing of healthcare workers, who are putting themselves at risk to help us,” says Evan. He said the initiative – which has garnered support from English Premier League football clubs and international celebrities – was born one evening in Cambridge as the pandemic gripped the UK.

“I was working on a volunteer project to share accessible versions of essential coronavirus information with the public, when one of our team saw a tweet from a London doctor,” says Evan. “He wanted to start a charity to support healthcare workers, and he needed a software team to bring the charity to life digitally. We replied and decided to give it a shot. We’ve raised over £1.1 million [A$2 million from the generous UK public, and had several million worth of other donations from partner organisations.”

evan martin
Evan Martin and his colleagues.
Taken by Jude Palmer / Royal Academy of Engineering

Reflecting on his time studying at Monash, Evan notes the University encouraged him to take a wide range of units and have a breadth of career-thinking.

“Without that I would never have taken the classes that taught me the fundamentals of computer science that enabled me to go into software engineering. That same thinking encouraged me to take a chance on building the HEROES online portal.”

Evan completed the final stages of his degree abroad – the support to flexibly finish his studies made the move possible.

He co-founded Ventoura in 2014, when the team secured investment from a Finnish venture capital group. Within six weeks, Evan and his co-founders moved from Australia to Helsinki.

“My hobby became my profession, building the web and mobile apps for the company,” he says. Ventoura grew quickly, working with more than 2000 locals offering unique experiences to travellers around Europe, and partnering with British Airways.

The co-founding team from Ventoura worked so well together, they started building digital products for businesses they had met along the way. They headed to Cambridge in 2017 and founded Catalyst AI.

“As lead software engineer, I build software that contains machine-learning algorithms that can be applied to a range of industries,” says Evan. “I love my work. It involves working with UI/UX designers and creating the visual aspect of software that users interact with, as well as working with research scientists to build machine-learning models and back-end systems.”