Good research can end up being big business
Early career researchers tested their own ideas and presented solutions to biotech challenges at the first Medical Innovation Day at Health. The informal meeting between researchers and employers from business and industry can lead to valuable relations.
Rasmus Schmidt Davidsen, postdoc at the Technical University of Denmark, was a happy man when he left the Medical Innovation Day after it was held for the first time on 6 October. He won the award for the best pitch with his project 'Subretinal Photovotaic Implants' and he could at the same time add relevant persons from the biotech industry to his network.
Rasmus Schmidt Davidsen has an MSc in Engineering with solar cells and nanotechnology as his speciality. He is part of a research group at the Technical University of Denmark which is developing a chip that can be operated onto the back of a blind eye to restore some vision. The chip consists of power-generating solar cells that send electrical signals as compensation for damaged receptors. The project is being carried out in collaboration with Professor Toke Bek at the Department of Ophthalmology at Aarhus University Hospital.
Short and sweet
In the small lecture theatre under the roof of the yellow-brick anatomy building at Biomedicine, Rasmus Schmidt Davidsen was given precisely three minutes to describe his project. Not an easy task for a researcher who has dedicated his (working) life to a research project. However, he admits that being able to give a short and specific presentation is necessary.
"At some point we will have to go and find new investors for the research project so we can take the next step and, for example, test on animal models. There is a long way to a finished product, and it costs time and money," says Rasmus Schmidt Davidsen, who received some specific – and blunt – feedback from industry representatives before the final presentation late in the day.
"This is the first time that I presented the project externally and it is fantastic to get feedback from others. I have also been criticised and that is something I learn from as well. For example that I have to draw up a realistic timetable for the process and get a better overview of similar research groups and their project status," explains Rasmus Schmidt Davidsen.
In addition to being recognised for the best pitch, the postdoc from the Technical University of Denmark also appreciates the network he was introduced to during the day.
"In addition to investors from the biotech industry, other participants approached me and gave me the names of people they thought I ought to contact. There is a circle of people and companies that I do not naturally have contact with in my work at the Technical University of Denmark, which is less oriented towards the life science industry. This day has given my research an invaluable boost," says Rasmus Schmidt Davidsen.
Bringing knowledge into play
Network building and direct interaction between companies and participants was precisely the goal of the Medical innovation Day. As professor and organiser of the day, Thomas Vorup-Jensen also finds that both researchers and company representatives get something out of the day.
"The university plays an enormous role for innovation and it is therefore so important that we bring our knowledge and expertise into play in relation to business and industry. The Medical innovation Day was a setting for an uncomplicated meeting where ideas were exchanged," says Thomas Vorup-Jensen, though he cannot reveal whether specific agreements were made. However, he confirms that 'interactions' are taking place between some researchers and companies.
Pitch and response
During the day, researchers pitched their ideas and solutions for panels with representatives from business and industry, who responded with feedback and discussion. One thing learned from this was that the presentations must be understandable for the recipients.
"The first Medical innovation Day was an experiment where we checked out our strengths and weaknesses. Our strengths include us being very skilled at generating ideas, identifying problems and coming up with solutions. Researchers create excellent academic presentations. Now we need to get them to the stage where the recipients understand the message completely," says Thomas Vorup-Jensen. He is not worried about ending in the industry’s pocket by commercialising research.
"Research integrity is a cornerstone of our credibility. That is not at stake. Business and industry and the university have much to give one another and that is what we are working to move forward," says Thomas Vorup-Jensen.
See the winners of the best pitch on how to solve a challenge faced by a company and listen to what a biotech representative has to say about how the Medical innovation Day benefits him:
The next Medical innovation Day will take place on 5 October 2018. It will be anchored in the PhD programme at the Department of Clinical Medicine.