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Where Are You Dropping the Innovation Handoff?


Getting an idea to patients is a series of handoffs, like a long-distance relay race.

start to finish, innovation, entrepreneurship, physician entrepreneurship

Getting an idea to patients is a series of handoffs, like a long-distance relay race. To get an idea to an invention to an innovation requires a long, complex, expensive, risky series of steps involving a complex of participants handing off to the next.

For example, here's how the translational research race is run:

Chart, innovation, translational research, entrepreneurship, physician entrepreneurship

Complete innovation ecosystems have all the pieces in place. Incomplete systems don't and must either outsource the next steps or hope participants can find the money, technology, people, and partners they need somewhere else.

If you find that you are not getting the bang for the buck you expect—whether you’re dealing with a university, a city or a country—or if you are having trouble getting ideas, inventions, and discoveries across the finish line, then you need to fill in the missing parts.

1. Do a stakeholders’ needs assessment to identify the missing pieces.

2. Do a SWOT analysis to clarify which parts you can make and which you will need to buy.

3. Create an ecosystem asset map to uncover sources of innovation that are not on your radar.

4. Build your internal networks then link them to external ones.

5. Be sure you have elements in place to provide education, resources, networks, mentors, experiential learning, knowledge exchange, and access to laddered layers of funding from multiple sources that are appropriate for each stage of technology development.

6. Be sure that the education, basic research and development, technology transfer, translational research, and commercialization functions are available and aligned.

7. Create a way to coordinate and control the process from discovery to launch by having a “central innovation nervous system.”

8. Be sure you have people who know how to lead innovators.

9. Engage philanthropreneurs to help fund development.

10. Make sure you have a strategic communications plan to scale the enterprise.

Putting all these pieces in place takes a very long time, sometimes generations. Many participants will not live to see the final result. However, if you have an idea of where you want to go and a mental map of what a complete system looks like, the first steps don't seem so hard.

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Victor J. Dzau, MD, gives expert advice
Victor J. Dzau, MD, gives expert advice