Fast Forwarding Medical Innovation Blog

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Getting More from America’s Academic Medical Centers by Making Innovation and Entrepreneurship a Natural and Expected Academic Behavior

This blog is focused on the critical need for a more strategic approach to biomedical innovation and entrepreneurship in America’s Academic Medical Centers and Universities.

The Innovator’s ‘Academic’ Dilemma: A Primer

August 8, 2017

Clayton Christiansen wrote a bestseller called The Innovator’s Dilemma. It’s an awesome and instructive read on why and how new technologies can result in large, established firms failing because they do NOT see the unexpected from potential competitors. The concept of disruptive innovation is also introduced that suggests it is difficult to envision what disruption will occur from technologies in their early state. It’s a bit scary if you are a CEO – like you CEO guys and gals need something else to worry about. I hope to be able to engage Mr. Christiansen in our blog and podcast series in the future. Clayton, buddy, if you’re out there reading this, give me a call to schedule!

Today’s post is about setting the stage in explaining why it’s such a !@#$*&% difficult choice (dilemma) for faculty at our great academic medical centers (AMC) on whether or not to devote significant energy and resources toward innovation, commercialization and entrepreneurship. In future posts, I’ll cover, in greater detail, definitions of innovation, including disruptive innovation, as well as entrepreneurship as it applies to academic medicine; for today, let’s just broadly define innovation as an idea to change the way we do something in medicine that requires investment and risk. The investment and risk can be time and money or a combination of the two.

While this post is not going to tell any of the folks struggling with biomedical innovation in academic medicine anything new (you peeps can skip to the next blog), it will be a primer for our industry, entrepreneurial and other interested colleagues that hopefully helps you understand why things can move so damn slowly within the academic sphere (bubble) or why you often can’t get good academic partnership traction.

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Executive Director: Fast Forward Medical Innovation

Professor: Emergency Medicine and Biomedical Engineering
University of Michigan Medical School

Kevin Ward, M.D., is a simple country ER doctor, serial innovator, and sometime entrepreneur who is blessed with the privilege of leading two awesome (his words) innovation programs at the University of Michigan — Fast Forward Medical Innovation and the Michigan Center for Integrative Research in Critical Care. His passion is in developing programs which encourage strategic, integrative, and disciplined collaborations across medicine, engineering, information sciences, and industry that promote true solutions.


Have questions about biomedical innovation at the University of Michigan? Contact Fast Forward Medical Innovation at or call (734) 615-5060.

9 responses on "Fast Forwarding Medical Innovation Blog"

  1. This is great Kevin, thanks! I think that your fracking analogy for accessing untapped academic technologies is right on. I look forward to following the blog and hearing your thoughts.

  2. Looking forward to enjoying the journey with you! It is indeed all about the team!

  3. Good insights. Keep these coming Kevin!

  4. Great post, Kevin – it’s inspiring to be a part of a team that sees the (very normal) stumbling blocks we come across when testing collaboration models as opportunities to learn and make us better (vs. reasons to abandon the effort). Your leadership and communication are part of that Michigan Medicine Magic – excited to hear more in coming posts. Go Blue!

  5. Excellent analogy, Kevin. Who better to mine for disruptive innovation than Fast Forward Medical Innovation! Looking forward to hearing more about FFMI and its expanding role in advancing healthcare.

  6. Fantastic Kevin! Can’t wait to hear more about your perspective- so many across this country could learn from your experiences… I see failed translational science on a regular basis coming out of academia. It does not need to be that way at all..just need the right folks to be around the table to catalyze

  7. Kevin – great initial entry for your Innovations blog. Exciting stuff. The traditional model of AMC research, discovery, and implementation just won’t get it done, and is limiting some of our great young scientific minds. Thanks for getting this up and running. Will look forward to future entries.

  8. Hi Kevin-

    Thanks for creating and populating the blog. There are a lot of ways AMCs can foster even greater medical progress. A small irony is that the ordained separation of church and state, aka relationships with industry, obligates these often reluctant partners to work it out. Certain essential, predicate functions are assigned to the respective entities by law and by policy (companies are not allowed to enroll patients in clinical trials, AMCs do not directly commercialize their own discoveries, as examples). In the field of medical devices, most successful inventions are conceived and validated by practicing clinicians in service to their own patients and practices. In this way, inventors are not classical entrepreneurs but rather self-interested problem solvers. During an SUS panel this year, a Big Ten surgery chair stated, “It would be ethically unacceptable for any member of my faculty to use their invention on their own patient, even if the inventor and the Univeristy receive no royalty on sales to the institution and the patient is fully informed.” Of course, this statement is baseless and needlessly hampers the provision of optimal care. There are some promising activities going on with the potential to accelerate the goals of pragmatists.

  9. Your analogy is spot on. I really enjoyed the blog and look forward to upcoming topics.

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