Developing Spain’s Innovation Ecosystem One Hack at a Time
Madrid-MIT M+Visión’s Hacking Medicine Madrid anchors three days of healthcare innovation in Madrid
In the midst of beautiful Spring weather in Madrid, the Madrid-MIT M+Visión Consortium, a partnership between MIT and the government of Madrid, joined forces with MIT Hacking Medicine series to bring a spark of growth and renewal to the innovation ecosystem of Madrid with the Hacking Medicine Madrid event held at the end of February.
Across three days, a series of events brought together under the title “Ideas into Action” saw two M+Visión Consortium programs bookend MIT’s successful Hacking Medicine series in which a diverse groups of engineers, clinicians and entrepreneurs come together to quickly develop solutions to various healthcare needs.
This year’s event marks the second time MIT’s Hacking Medicine event has come to Madrid. In both cases, its arrival was catalyzed and organized by the M+Visión Consortium. M+Visión is a partnership formed in 2010 between MIT and the government of Madrid to develop training, infrastructure and an ecosystem for supporting healthcare innovation within Spain.
The foundational element of M+Visión is its IDEA3 Innovation Method. Over the course of a year, a small group of Fellows are selected to participate in the IDEA3 program. The method for IDEA3 involves identifying an unmet healthcare need and through a process of being challenged by a diverse group of clinicians, engineers and entrepreneurs fine tuning their technology so it can potentially be developed in the shortest possible period of time.
The two M+Visión events that sandwiched the two days of the Hacking Medicine Madrid event include the IDEA2 Madrid awards ceremony and the Future Projects Forum.
IDEA2 Madrid Awards Spain’s Innovators
The IDEA2 Madrid program departs from the IDEA3 program in that its open to anyone in Spain that has an idea to develop a healthcare solution and wants to develop it over just a couple of months and submit it for the annual awards that are given for the best of the year.
The vision of IDEA2 Madrid is to foster the innovation ecosystem in Madrid by bringing together leaders in science, medicine, engineering, business, and the public sector to accelerate the development of translational research and to encourage entrepreneurship.
The IDEA2 Madrid awards represents the culmination of months of hard work by both the candidates who submitted their research proposals and the “Proposal Catalysts” (or mentors) who over many months guided the research groups through the development of a full proposal for a medical device technology.
“IDEA2 is an extended program over a number of months, where teams gain regular mentoring as they develop detailed innovation ideas and business proposals,” explained Peter Bryant, a professor of entrepreneurship at the Instituto de Empressa (IE) in Madrid and a mentor for IDEA2 Madrid as well as the Hacking Medicine event. “Most participants in IDEA2 also build actual models or prototypes. I expect a number of the Hacking Medicine teams will now go forward into IDEA2 and use the program as a way to further develop their ideas.”
Project Futures Forum Plots the Course for Future Innovators
At the end of the weekend was the Project Futures Forum, which was an open discussion with an expert panel, including Peter Bryant, Marisol Quintero, CEO of Bioncotech Therapeutics, a biopharmaceutical company dedicated to the development of new oncologic treatments based in Valencia, Spain and Luis del Cañizo, Co-founder of Madrid-based iDoctus, the leading point-of-care solution for physicians to make safer and faster clinical decisions using smartphones and tablets.
The panel served as a type of guidance seminar to all those who had participated in the weekend-long Hacking Medicine event for them to better understand what are the best next steps to keep their projects going forward or for developing new ones.
With an audience predominantly made up engineering and medical students from a country that has endured high unemployment rates over the last five years, there was a fair amount of questions that reflected their trepidation about their future.
Despite these expressions of concern, the panelists were encouraging.
“I would argue that most of the strengths of Spain’s innovation ecosystem comes from being very competitive, both in costs and in the quality of developments,” said del Cañizo. “We have excellent qualified human capital willing to work at very competitive prices. The strengths are more obvious once you make the jump to Latin-American markets, where Spanish companies have an edge against other European or even North American competitors.”
He added: “I would argue that an innovative company in the e-Health arena can have a near monopolistic claim to a market equivalent to one-third to one-fifth of the US market. That is an excellent value proposition that almost no company in the US could ever dream to have.”
The main obstacle for these young students who are looking for careers in developing healthcare solutions is changing their mindset from working for a big company to instead starting one of their own.
“The main obstacle is plainly mental,” say del Cañizo. “Innovation comes along with steep sacrifices and repetitive failures and our society doesn’t tolerate nor reward those sides of the coin.”
Nurturing activities that stimulate innovation from the grassroots, such as IDEA2 Madrid and Hacking Medicine Madrid events, fill an important gap that has been lacking in developing in entrepreneurship, according to del Cañizo.
Hacking Medicine Anchors the Ideas Into Action Weekend
The big event that covered two full days of the Ideas Into Action weekend was Hacking Medicine in which over seventy participants split up finally into thirteen groups to develop quickly a viable proposal for solving a healthcare issue. Solutions ranged from a medical device technology to a healthcare app or even large database-driven diagnosis system. Read more about Hacking Medicine Madrid 2015 +