ANNIVERSARY. In 2009 a medical technology platform was started in western Sweden: MedTech West. Five stakeholders (Chalmers University of Technology, Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg, the University of Borås, Sahlgrenska University Hospital and Region Västra Götaland) together invested SEK 13.5 million over a three-year period to develop medical technology.
We have found three of the professors behind this initiative: Mikael Elam, a professor at Sahlgrenska Academy and chief physician in clinical neurophysiology at Sahlgrenska University Hospital; Mikael Persson, a professor of signal processing and biomedical engineering at Chalmers; and Kaj Lindecrantz, a professor of medical signal processing and systems engineering (Chalmers, University of Borås, the Royal Institute of Technology and Karolinska Institutet). All of them are still in MedTech West, and in connection with its tenth anniversary, this seems like a suitable time to ask them some questions.
How did it all begin?
“Mikael Persson and I worked together at Chalmers,” Kaj Lindecrantz recalls. “We got to know Mikael Elam through medical engineering development projects in which we collaborated through our various roles at Chalmers and the hospital.”
“In the past, collaborations were essentially based on personal contacts,” says Mikael Persson. “That can work very well, but it is not as easy for someone to start a collaboration without having the right contacts. In addition, our organizations are organized in very different ways. We needed to understand how the other’s organization works, which was complicated and took a lot of time from other efforts. We saw that there was a great need to simplify, improve and speed up collaborations on medical technology between the hospital and Chalmers.”
And then you started MedTech West?
“In our conversations we kept returning to the need to build a platform that could improve the potential for research, development and innovations in the medical technology area through increased collaboration among academia, health care and industry,” says Mikael Elam. “In addition, several investigations had shown that there was a lack of new ideas and proposals for bold projects. By bringing these stakeholders together (business, health care and research) we also hoped that a platform would evolve where new, innovative ideas could be exploited and further developed.”
When you look back now, how did it turn out?
“Since we started MedTech West 10 years ago, a lot of positive things have happened in the system for innovation in western Sweden,” says Persson. “MedTech West has helped establish a well-functioning collaborative team along with Sahlgrenska Science Park, Gothia Forum, the Innovation Platform, Business Region Göteborg and AZ BioVentureHub.”
“Another thing that MedTech West worked for is the master’s program in biomedical engineering that we have at Chalmers today,” Lindecrantz says. “And soon the first undergraduate civil engineering program will start, a program in biomedical engineering. Education is an important prerequisite for continued development because it ensures access to medical technology expertise in the future.”
“The Research School being planned by Sahlgrenska Academy and Chalmers jointly is also extremely important groundwork that MedTech West has helped to make a reality,” says Elam.
“MedTech West has also been an important party in the planning and organization of Medtech4Health, for which we currently are the node in western Sweden,” continues Persson. “Medtech4Health is a national Strategic Innovation Program within medical technology funded by Vinnova, Sweden’s innovation agency. The program will be a catalyst for encouraging increased implementation of medical technology ideas in health care, making health care more effective and strengthening the medtech industry.”
What does the future hold?
“Today we can see that there has been a much more significant focus on collaboration between health care and the technology side in the region, which is what we have been striving for,” says Persson. “We will now continue that work.”
“And of course MedTech West continues to play a very important role in seeing that the well-functioning networks and processes built up over 10 years can continue to run as quickly and efficiently as possible,” says Lindecrantz.
“The need to develop new, high-tech solutions to solve health care challenges has not diminished. On the contrary, it keeps increasing,” says Elam. “After 10 years MedTech West represents a resource with unique expertise and the experience of working with these issues in this very complex, collaboration environment.”
“We hope that during the next 10 years, MedTech West will continue to be a great resource and a tool that can help the region solve some of its health care needs and ultimately contribute to the greatest possible benefit to patients,” Mikael Persson concludes.
TEXT: HELENE LINDSTRÖM, MEDTECH WEST
PHOTO: HELENE LINDSTRÖM AND ELIN LINDSTRÖM