The Intrapreneurial Researcher – an interview with Professor Karen Reynolds

Professor Karen Reynolds
As mentioned last week, over my next few posts I will provide case studies of Intrapreneurial Researchers, the first of these being Karen Reynolds, Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Flinders University and Director of the Medical Device Partnering Program in South Australia.


Q.  It was through your vision that the Medical Device Partnering Program (MDPP) in South Australia was created.  What problem did you see needed solving and how was it being addressed – if at all?

A.  I developed the MDPP in an attempt to stimulate and facilitate collaboration between research institutions and industry to promote innovation in medical devices.  The MDPP was structured to address the barriers to collaboration by providing a market-driven model for research that develops links with industry and end users from the outset, identifying opportunities for stakeholders to work together to achieve mutual benefits, and providing guidance and assistance through the development and commercialisation pathway.  The Program provides a transparent model for collaboration and streamlined mechanisms for research and development, drawing on the breadth of capabilities from its partner network.

Q.  How did you start building momentum for the MDPP?

A.  We initiated a consultative discussion with stakeholders from within South Australia’s medical device community including all three publicly-funded South Australian Universities.  A collaborative bid was then put forward to the State Government, through the Premier’s Science & Industry Fund (PSRF) and we successfully launched the Program in mid-2008.  Since the initial PSRF funding, the MDPP has attracted continued investment and given the tremendous interest from interstate organisations we are currently working towards extending the Program nationally.

Building momentum for MDPP projects specifically has been relatively easy.  Industry and researchers alike have recognised value in the program, and there has been overwhelming enthusiasm shown by companies to work with researchers and to invest in early stage products or ideas.

Q.  What significant impact has the MDPP made?

A.  The medical device industry is made up predominantly of small enterprises.  Whilst these companies tend to have very innovative ideas, in many instances they don’t have the necessary research and development resources, or contact with experts from the research and clinical communities.  The MDPP has provided a portal to access technical and clinical expertise and has opened the doors for these companies to obtain end-user feedback much earlier in the development process.

The MDPP has provided evidence that – armed with a simple, transparent and effective model for engagement, barriers to collaboration and innovation can be overcome.  Traditionally competing parties are now demonstrating that they are willing to engage and work together collaboratively, resulting in successful outputs.

Q.  What has the MDPP meant for your career and for what you wanted to achieve professionally?

A.  In establishing the MDPP, my personal driver was to reduce the barriers of collaboration between industry and researchers, to increase the relevance of university research to see new and innovative medical devices reach the market, and ultimately to improve health outcomes.  While my career has certainly become far less traditional from an academic perspective, I believe the impact that the MDPP has had been more far-reaching than if I had continued on a very traditional academic path. I have enjoyed the privilege of interacting with a very diverse range of people, and being able to provide input into many new medical device concepts.

Q.  What advice would you give to other researchers who want to “think big” in terms of how they can effect change in their area of expertise?

A.  Be able to communicate with a variety of audiences, consider all stakeholder expectations and desired outcomes; be willing to compromise and adapt.  Don’t be afraid to try something new, and be willing to drive change; you never know – it might work!  In the environment we work where we are judged against traditional metrics, it can sometimes be hard to put your own personal research and aspirations aside in order to see other opportunities succeed.  However with hard work, perseverance and determination you can succeed.

Thank you Professor Karen Reynolds for your time.  For more information on South Australia’s Medical Device Partnering Program please visit http://www.flinders.edu.au/mdpp/.  For any further questions on thinking big, feel free to email me personally at emma@emmabeames.com.au.

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