An innovation center team working together

A Framework for the Pursuit of Innovation

Driving innovation in healthcare is a challenging endeavor. It is a market full of dynamic customers, a variety of players, and, over it all, tight regulation. But I’m sure no one would disagree that the benefits of innovation in healthcare more than outweigh these challenges. New drugs and devices advance our ability to treat diseases, and today’s healthcare burdens become tomorrow’s distant history. The development of penicillin generated the field antibiotics, and undiscovered innovations have the power to positively impact currently untreatable diseases.

But what are the key components of a successful innovation project? Given the costs and potential of great innovation and inventions in healthcare, innovators must take care to cautiously validate their ideas before pursuing them. I recently spoke with Erik Lium, PhD and Executive Vice President of Mount Sinai Innovation Partners to gather his thoughts on this topic. Based on that conversation, we have laid out a basic framework for ensuring that an innovation will likely be worth the time and effort to pursue.

Validating Ideas

Validity is established if the innovation addresses a substantial, unmet need in the marketplace. There must be an understanding of the market and who its customers are. Is there a primary customer or a secondary customer? Generally, healthcare is a multisided market. It is important to understand the market’s stakeholders, their roles and motivations, and how they are going to perceive and engage with the product.

Make sure to engage with the broader community to ensure that they support your interpretation. Before moving forward, reach out to advisors, venture capitalists, and other companies to get feedback about the potential innovations.

Once an innovator has a valid idea and the opportunity to pursue it, developing the idea into a product or service is dependent on the people on your commercialization teams that are committed to solving that problem.

A Solid Team

As an innovation team takes shape, it’s important to reflect on the question, “Can I work shoulder to shoulder with this group?” From a business perspective, you need to focus on the kind of people with whom you want to build an enterprise. The number of hours that are put in and the number of successes and failures that occur depend on a solid, productive and experienced team.

One of the most important factors in creating a united team is communicating a common vision that everyone can fully buy into. Innovative endeavors will have a vision, mission, values, key strategies, and end goals. Everyone on the team needs to be aligned to those central ideas. .

Your team also needs to have the following skills and or functions:

Business

This function oversee tasks having to do with compliance, marketing, and market research. A successful business team will have a clear vision of the commercial landscape and the skill to make a place for the new product in the healthcare marketplace.

Product Development

This function oversees the creation of the product, direct larger-scale manufacturing, and communicates in order to help the other teams understand what the product does and does not do. Experts in this area know their science and are focused on creating a product that meets a significant, unmet need. It is important that this group have experience along the full spectrum of the product development process, from ideation to commercialization. Each step along the way comes with its own challenges, so experience in the full spectrum is key.

Funding

For obvious reasons, capital is important. A large, committed partner like an academic medical center can be very important in healthcare.

This function secures the needed capital to advance the projects that develop the product. Experts in this area may have experience with capital investment firms or with academic research provider facilities that would be willing to fund projects; they can also help the team understand what IP conflicts may arise as the project develops.

Conclusion

Driving innovation in healthcare is hard but rewarding work. More innovators can find success when they work from a position of understanding. This framework aims to create that foundation of understanding. Healthcare innovation is most successful when it fulfills a significant, unmet need. Innovative ideas become reality when they are developed by professionals who can handle the business, financial, and product development aspects of innovation. The teams that have the best record of bringing products from idea to reality are those that have strong teamwork skills and can share the vision of each project they work on.