Med device design is typically done by companies with significant resources. Capital, design and engineering talent, and infrastructure to comply with regulatory requirements are typical of what it takes to move from idea to viable product in the medical space. The need for that foundation will not be changing any time soon.
What is changing, however, is where the spark of discovery and inspiration is coming from. A “maker movement” has been established and has grown substantially. Pushing the maker movement is the increasing necessity of simply having to be self-reliant in the face of changing economic conditions – offshoring of traditional jobs and the rise in temporary and contract work, for example. The availability of inexpensive 3-D printers and the promotion of “design thinking” has supplied additional fuel to the movement.
I am seeing the maker movement expanding into med device design through the establishment of incubators and innovation centers by hospitals and health centers. What Cleveland Clinic has done is just one example. Institutions are recognizing that their own people on the front lines of health care delivery can be the best source of innovative ideas, and they are keen to develop ways of encouraging and harnessing those ideas.
Apart from institutionally-supported innovation efforts, the rise of the maker movement and do-it-yourself culture is giving individuals the confidence that they can impact the quality of their own lives and those of their loved ones by solving the problems they are discovering in the med devices and products that are increasingly moving out of the hospital and into the home.
It’s still a long way from individual maker to viable commercial product. But I see these new makers as being a vast source of future innovation in med device design.