Better ideas. Better outcomes.

Impact Statement 2018

COLLABORATION Accelerating Health Care Innovation In Grand Rapids

The excitement throughout the Spectrum Health Innovations (SHI) offices was palpable. In February 2018, SHI was awarded a $727,000 grant from the City of Grand Rapids’ SmartZoneSM Local Development Finance Authority (LDFA) to support the development of new health care solutions.

SmartZonesSM is an economic development tool that allows the capture of increased property tax dollars for investment within the SmartZoneSM to foster development and attraction of technology-based businesses and jobs by promoting collaboration between governments, universities, industries and other entities.

In 2017, the City of Grand Rapids LDFA issued a request for proposals to identify opportunities to invest in projects or services that support high-technology businesses and entrepreneurs. They sought candidates who were strong in the areas of inspiration, mentoring and access to resources; infrastructure and physical resources; connection and awareness; and talent. SHI brought together long-time partners Grand Valley State University (GVSU) and Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University (KCAD) to submit a winning proposal.

“The three of us have a uniquely developed collaboration,” says Brent Mulder, PhD, MBA, president, Spectrum Health Innovations. “We have been working together for five years recruiting the talented faculty and students of our local universities and colleges to create novel technologies that solve existing health care problems. This award will help to expand upon this already successful platform.”

The LDFA grant will bring together students from GVSU’s engineering program, KCAD’s industrial design program, and Spectrum Health clinicians to work on solving real-world health care problems.

John Farris, PhD, professor of engineering, will bring the GVSU engineering students to the collaboration. “We will work as a team to develop three projects per year for three years, beginning fall of 2018. We’ll meet regularly to discuss ideas for projects with a quick path to commercialization. That’s what the LDFA wants to see.”

“John and I will co-teach a class of industrial design and engineering students,” says Jonathan Moroney, chair of the industrial design department at KCAD. “We’ll begin with four students this fall, six in spring, then six students per project each year. When choosing students to participate, we’ll look for those with a passion for health care, self-driven, and primarily those with senior status. All 12 students will work on one of three projects.”

Another part of the collaboration will include entrepreneurs-in-residence (EIR). Linda Chamberlain, PhD, director, GVSU technology commercialization, will oversee the EIR positions. “The EIRs will be responsible for creating the business model as the projects progress through the development pipeline. This includes commercialization road-mapping, market assessment and financial analysis. The EIR could also be asked to support development of the foundational issues of a business start-up, such as corporate form, licensing and obtaining seed funding.”

“Our classes will feel like an internship,” Moroney says. “They will have more of a professional experience, as if they were part of a company preparing to launch a new product. But whereas many students might have a challenge in gaining access to context and experts, by working with SHI, we won’t have that problem. That’s the strength of this program—the students will be able to work directly with technicians, managers, charge nurses, therapists and other staff around the hospital.”

The experience will open pathways to medical careers for students while developing innovative medical devices to solve real-world health care problems that will benefit many. 

The Grand Rapids SmartZoneSM LDFA was established in 2002 by the City of Grand Rapids, Grand Valley State University, Van Andel Research Institute, Grand Rapids Community College and The Right Place, Inc.

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fast facts
  • In February 2018, SHI was awarded a $727,000 grant from the City of Grand Rapids’ SmartZoneSM Local Development Finance Authority (LDFA) to support the development of new health care solutions.
  • SHI brought together long-time partners Grand Valley State University (GVSU) and Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University (KCAD) to submit the winning proposal.
  • Working with 12 students per year for three years, the teams will produce prototypes of medical devices that will solve real-world health care problems.

perspectives
  • “As an educator, I really appreciate how much SHI has stepped up and connected us as community partners. Many talk about being partners, but few do it to the extent SHI does as a collaborator.”

    Jonathan Moroney, chair, industrial design, KCAD
  • “Our classes will feel like an internship.”

    Jonathan Moroney, chair of the industrial design department at KCAD
  • “This collaboration supports building and maintaining economic vitality of our region through the development of STEM talent and job creation, not to mention financial returns. This grant provides us the opportunity to put the medical device development model we have been practicing on steroids!”

    Linda Chamberlain, PhD, director, technology commercialization, GVSU

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