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Checklists for collaboration in innovation

Nicola Parry

On day two of Healthcare’s Grand Hackfest: Idea to Breakthrough Innovation in One Weekend, at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, keynote speaker David Clifford discussed the importance of thinking ahead in the innovation process.

Clifford, of the Kauffman Foundation, and Founder of Avicenna, LLC, a strategic consulting firm that helps stakeholders navigate emerging research and development paradigms, urged the group to consider checklists for collaboration in innovation and entrepreneurship. He identified four key items to consider as they proceed through the Hackfest with their innovation:

Choose how to organize: “Defining goals [is] very important. You want to know how long is the lifespan [of the product],” said Clifford. This is an important first step in the innovation process, when team members must determine whether their product is geared toward a specific aim, such that its lifespan will be governed by reaching certain milestones, or whether it will simply persist until there is no further market requirement for it. And there are other points to consider here, too. For example, what is the aim of the product? Is it something that will maybe improve quality of life for patients with a specific condition, or is it a product that will provide social support to a community?

Dave CliffordChoice of target organization is also important – whether a for-profit organization, not-for-profit organization, or a contractual consortium. For instance, a for-profit organization might be a better choice if timelines are flexible, or if the innovation represents a new product. However, if the goal of the innovation is to create social good, a not-for-profit company would be a better choice.

Intellectual property (IP): Think about your current IP inventory - does it comprise health data, for instance, or prior publications? You will also need to know how to transfer this IP – for example, will license agreements or donation be involved? And let’s not forget to decide how you want to be compensated for your product.

Demonstrate value in the market: For example, if your innovation is data-driven, what is its economic value? On this note, it’s also important to identify and utilize the data appropriately. There are huge amounts of data available for access in the healthcare space. However, they may be in incongruent databases that range from electrical sensors, such as electrocardiograms, to behavioral sensors, such as smart phones. So if your innovation requires incorporation of medical data, you first have to determine whether they are parsable, and then think about what you might need to do in order to access those data.

Path to sustainability: Consider the sustainability of your innovation. Is this an open source project that is ultimately capable of supporting itself, or do you potentially need to consider alternative pathways, with new models for collaboration?

Most people who go into medicine do so because they want to solve a problem, and Clifford emphasized the need for innovators to start thinking about creating products that can help them solve these problems.

Healthcare’s Grand Hackfest is the first in the Kauffman Foundation’s six-city Energizing Health Collaboration Series.

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