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Madrid-MIT Consortium holds international conference in Madrid

Interdisciplinary dialogue among global leaders focuses on developing strong biomedical innovation ecosystems.
The Madrid-MIT M+Visión Consortium, an initiative of the regional government of the Comunidad de Madrid, through the madri+d Foundation in partnership with MIT, has convened experts from the United States and Europe yesterday and today during the Biomedical Innovation Conference “Building High Performance Innovation Ecosystems” to share their experiences in the establishment of high-performance innovation ecosystems.

The Consortium is also using the conference to launch IDEA² Madrid, a program designed to help the Madrid's emerging biomedical innovators and entrepreneurs refine their project ideas and connect with the expertise to help realize them. IDEA² Madrid is based on IDEA², which was developed at the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology (HST). Its mission is to help turn new ideas into real products and successful business ventures, and to strengthen the community’s innovation ecosystem.

According to Karl Koster, executive director at the MIT Office of Corporate Relations and speaker at the conference, “it takes many different kinds of expertise to turn great ideas into real technologies and successful businesses. In a healthy innovation ecosystem, researchers, entrepreneurs and end-users build on one another’s ideas by identifying potential problems and solutions so there is an end-to-end dialog about how to make an impact. It also helps avoid the problem of engineering a solution that has meets no real-world need."

Other MIT personnel speaking at the conference include Elfar Adalsteinsson, associate professor of health sciences and technology, associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science (EECS) and Consortium associate director; Kay (Furman) Everett, an HST graduate student; Yoel Fink, director of the Research Laboratory of Electronics (RLE); Martha Gray, J. W. Kieckhefer Professor of Medical and Electrical Engineering, HST, EECS and Consortium director; Fiona Murray, professor of management of technology and faculty director of the MIT Sloan School of Management Entrepreneurship Center; and Bruce Rosen, director of the HST Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging.

Professor Julio Mayol, director of the Innovation Unit at the Clínico San Carlos Hospital (Madrid), asserts that IDEA² Madrid “is based on a successful model that was started by MIT and Harvard, and that has facilitated students turning their ideas into projects of excellence." Professor Norberto Malpica, from the Rey Juan Carlos University (Madrid), adds that in the new Madrid model, “the program has adapted to the unique characteristics of the city and it is no longer directed only to students, but also toward researchers and professionals throughout Madrid." Both experts act as co-chairs of the executive committee of the IDEA² Madrid program, one of the key elements in this Conference that welcomes some of the most relevant personalities in biomedical innovation from the United States and Spain.

The Madrid-MIT M+Visión Consortium has a mission to transform Madrid into a global center of excellence in biomedical imaging. In order to do so, experts emphasize the need for a sustainable and high-performance biomedical innovation community, one that values and combines “excellence in the transmission of scientific knowledge to clinical practices, better effectiveness of the products generated, efficiency in the movement and security of patients and, lastly, one that can be implemented into the market and bring value back into the system,” Mayol says.

Building high performance innovation ecosystems

During the conference featuring international experts on biomedical innovation, techniques and strategies used to promote innovation among institutions, companies and regions will be assessed and shared. Accordingly, the importance of networking in innovation ecosystems becomes apparent in solving problems, increasing efforts or even finding markets for products. “Healthy networks create a virtuous circle,” Koster says. “When they are functioning well and their members are finding success, they can discover even better opportunities and attract more talent. The strongest innovation economies are heterogeneous communities whose members may have differing goals but shared values, especially for a focus on rapidly and creatively solving important problems."

In Koster’s words, “through the M+Visión Consortium, whose director, MIT Professor Martha Gray will be at the conference, Madrid's biomedical technology innovators can learn from the expertise of MIT’s faculty, and become connected to a broad, international network of technology entrepreneurs, including engineers, scientists and industry leaders with venture and management expertise. They can even develop collaborations and find the expertise to refine ideas for new enterprises.”

Focusing on hospitals, for instance, Mayol suggests that in order to build a community of innovators, the first step is to “find internal leadership that places innovation amongst the top priorities of the institution’s strategies," defining creative professionals who are capable of asking clinically relevant questions and offering innovative solutions as the “the fuel that starts the innovation engine."

On the other hand, experts have noted that the key to success in innovation lies in asking the right question, or essentially using varying viewpoints in order to find effective and innovative solutions.

Madrid, international center of biomedical innovation

Koster, Malpica and Mayol agree that Madrid, due to both its research and socioeconomic capacity, is an ideal candidate for a center of technological and biomedical innovation. “We have local industry, universities, research centers, hospitals,” Malpica says.

However, certain weaknesses come about, in Mayol’s opinion, “due to the poor culture of innovation in the country and the rigidity of legislation which hinders the transmission of research results in a successful manner." That is why it is necessary to overcome institutional barriers and encourage engineers, researchers and clinicians to find productive means of collaboration. Koster adds that “what we are finding in Madrid is there is a great pool of expertise that can benefit from additional structures and practices to cross institutional barriers. It’s hard for engineers to find ways to productively collaborate with clinicians who see patients every day, or who are involved in their own research, for example. Part of the solution to strengthening Madrid’s innovation ecosystem is institutionalizing practical and meaningful opportunities to exchange ideas and to work together."

The benefit to the region of this type of ecosystem is also important in financial terms, as “it would increase the attractiveness of our community in the eyes of researchers, funders and companies that intend to maintain leadership in biomedical R&D. And that is a way to really contribute to a change in the region’s productivity model," Mayol says.

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