How the medtech industry learned to stop worrying and love open innovation

November 04, 2015

As the medical device industry is challenged to accelerate innovation and fill the new product pipeline while improving outcomes, the notion of open innovation has gained traction. This has been a bit of a sea change for an industry that, historically, has liked to keep research and development under very tight wraps. Companies that want to maintain a competitive advantage in a rapidly changing business landscape have little choice, however, but to embrace this new model, according to Peter M. von Dyck, CEO of eZassi (Fernandina Beach, FL), a company that has developed a secure collaboration platform for the medical device industry. And, as they test open innovation within a secure environment, many discover that it's not as scary as they might have thought. It's a lot like the evolution of e-commerce, says von Dyck. "Until e-commerce had trusted online transactional capabilities that provided bilateral protection for all parties, we were too scared to use it. Now that [platforms such as] eZassi are making it safe to connect, solve and collaborate together, we are seeing a diminishment in the 'too scared to share' phenomenon, and that is a game changer in the pace of innovation," von Dyck told PlasticsToday. He will discuss the technology and its benefits for medtech innovation at the co-located MD&M Florida and PLASTEC South events coming to Orlando, FL, later this month.

ChangeOpen innovation centers primarily around firms looking outside their corporate enterprise walls for insights, ideas, inventions and inspiration, explains von Dyck. "It typically involves crowdsourcing ideas and scouting technologies for external opportunities that lead to new products and partners. It can also revolve around the use of a portal to run technology challenges around things it needs or seeks. All these tactics comprise open innovation, and increasingly it's becoming a more standard way to accelerate innovation and new product development," says von Dyck.

It's not as if medical technology companies are complete strangers to collaborative innovation, adds von Dyck. The medtech industry has partnered with universities, start-ups and inventors for decades. The difference today is that the collaborative process is "moving online and leveraging the power of the crowd, as we are all mobile and well connected online," explains von Dyck. "The post-recession market is hungry for new products, and the increasingly digital marketplace demands new solutions at faster rates than before." Increasingly, companies have no choice but to extend their reach into crowd ideation if they want to be successful in the 21st century, according to von Dyck. "Sitting back and relying on internal product development is a risk and a competitive disadvantage in today's connected world."

While that may be true, companies in the medtech space have understandable concerns regarding intellectual property protection in this open environment, and that is precisely why von Dyck developed the eZassi platform. Open innovation is technology centric, says von Dyck, and IP-centric markets like medtech have special requirements, as the ideas generated and captured typically need to be more confidential and disclosed more securely in a staged manner. "EZassi provides this secure interface and collaboration platform that not only extends a firm's innovation reach and aperture, but also ensures IP security and governance. With patent laws centering on first to file, our open innovation portals are critical in creating a trusted online environment for what we call iCommerce or Innovation Commerce," he adds.

The co-located MD&M Florida and PLASTEC South events will feature dozens of experts at conference sessions devoted to medical device innovation, Industry 4.0 and strategies for innovative, cost-effective package design. The events come to the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, FL, on Nov. 18 and 19.

This platform benefits not only larger, well-established companies, but also small startups, notes von Dyck. "Startups need to be experts in their domain. It would be dangerous to think you are the only one in the world thinking about a particular invention or technology," he says. "In fact, you need to leverage open innovation to collaborate with anyone in the world that has an interest in this area or is working on anything remotely connected."

Open innovation methodology is especially well adapted to the medtech space as it adjusts to a value-based healthcare model, which aims to achieve the best outcomes at the lowest cost. "Value-based healthcare requires new products, new services, new processes, new outcomes and new mindsets," says von Dyck. Abrupt, critical changes in a market amplify the need for open innovation, he adds, "as it can lead to ideas and change at a much faster pace, particularly when new acumen is needed that may not reside within the enterprise or institution."

Von Dyck has leveraged his 20-year history in the medtech space in the areas of endoscopic surgery, wound care, implantables and software to develop innovation management software that responds to the specific concerns and demands of the medical technology community. At eZassi, he helps client firms build communities for collaboration and co-design and enables technology cyber-scouting, invention capture and idea analytics, explains von Dyck. "Our key objective is to allow ‘safe disclosure without IP exposure' and ensure that medtech companies can maintain their freedom to operate while going open."

Von Dyck will be among the featured speakers on Thursday, Nov. 19, during a daylong conference, titled Making Your Innovations Count in a Value-based World, at the MD&M Florida and PLASTEC South trade shows in Orlando, FL. The events, produced by UBM Canon, come to the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, FL, on Nov. 18 and 19.

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