The coming demise of innovation in the medtech space has been extensively covered by an array of speakers, bloggers, and industry experts. Most often, the 2.3% excise tax on medical device sales is targeted as a primary reason. The FDA is also noted as a contributing factor (or at least the regulations that are in place), making the pathway to market challenging. I might argue, however, that the spirit of innovation has never been more alive than it is today. New ideas are emerging constantly and now, seemingly more than ever, they have routes to take to get to market.

I’ve been covering the medical device design and manufacturing space for more than 15 years. Soon after I started, I found it fascinating how all the pieces were in place for someone with an idea for a medical device (and a bankroll, of course) could have it designed, developed, manufactured, packaged, distributed, and marketed without really lifting a finger themselves. Ok, sure, perhaps it’s not THAT simple, but the suppliers and companies to do it were there. The one factor that was really lacking (or at least not drawing much attention at the time) was the organizer who pulled all the pieces together and helped the person with the idea identify all the right partners.

Fortunately, in more recent years, that missing aspect seems to have been addressed. I’m hearing about medtech design challenges, pitch competitions, innovation incubators, device hack-a-thons, and technology start-up contests from every corner of the healthcare industry. In some cases, it’s even happening outside the more traditional infrastructure of our community.

View: Breaking the Barriers to Insights and Innovation

At the Medical World Americas event, I was introduced to two such initiatives and one of them even takes the medtech innovation spirit into outer space! Ok, well, not exactly INTO outer space, but the competition is centered around space exploration efforts.

That event happens at SpaceCom, an event typically more appropriate for rocket scientists than medical device innovators. However, given how many innovations that are developed for space can make a significant impact on healthcare, the pairing starts to make sense. At SpaceCom, the Launch Health Innovation Challenge will take place. According to the organizers, Launch Health will be a start-up weekend style event with challenges provided by the Johnson Space Center and the National Space Biomedical Research Institute. The winner will be announced from the International Space Stations and will qualify for a funding review from the National Space Biomedical Research Institute.

The other event was a type of “pitch competition” featuring members of the first “class” in the Texas Medical Center’s accelerator program. Dubbed TMCx, this program provides the education necessary for start-ups to learn about bringing their idea to the next level. Ideas featured during this pitch competition included absorbable medical devices, mobile brain measurement tech, a monitor for surgical blood loss, surgical adhesives, monitoring technologies, and more.

And these represent only two examples. I’ve encountered an array of these types of initiatives that are helping to bring medical device innovations from the napkins or notebooks and into a real-world development environment. Following are a few of the other opportunities of which I’ve been made aware.

  • DreamIt Health is the healthcare division of DreamIt Ventures. They maintain a number of accelerators in the U.S. and provide a type of mentorship for medical device start-ups seeking to discover how to move their idea to a full-fledged medical device company.
  • Taking to heart the idea of bringing that napkin sketch through to commercialization, Edison Nation Medical invites ideas to be submitted to them for evaluation. They then select the ideas most likely to succeed and bring them through the steps required to eventually license the tech, sell it, or help to start a new company.
  • Based in Ireland, i360medical is an innovation incubator that’s bridging the ocean between the U.S. and Europe. Strategically positioned to develop ideas originating on either continent, the firm similarly evaluates ideas and helps to bring them through to commercialization. (Full disclosure: i360medical’s founder and CEO, Derek Young, is a member of MDT’s Editorial Advisory Board.)
  • Just today, I was alerted to the fact that at the AdvaMed Conference in October (hope to see you there), they will have the finals of the MedTech Innovator 2015 event. I’m sure I’ll have more to report on this after the event but I’ll certainly be looking forward to it.

These examples are only a handful of the numerous initiatives that are happening in the medical device space to embrace, promote, and introduce new innovations for healthcare into the market. So while I certainly agree that there are challenges in place that are having a negative impact on innovation in medicine, there are also significant efforts to nurture new ideas and technologies to enhance healthcare.

Had any experience with an innovation incubator? Participated in a hack-a-thon? Share your experience below!


Entries Open: Establish your company as a technology leader. For 50 years, the R&D 100 Awards, widely recognized as the “Oscars of Invention,” have showcased products of technological significance. Learn more.