Networking is the first step. This leads to collaborations. With its sights set on this goal, the VDI Technology Center (German: VDI Technologiezentrum GmbH) runs the national medical technology information platform titled Medizintechnologie.de on behalf of the German government. The project was launched following the National Strategy Process "Innovations in Medical Technology".
COMPAMED.de spoke with project director Dr. Oliver Bujok about the changes in the industry and the importance of communication between the different stakeholders.
Dr. Bujok, what is the goal of the Medizintechnologie.de national medical technology information platform?
Oliver Bujok: We primarily want to keep innovative small and medium-sized businesses in the medical technology field – and this also pertains to suppliers – posted regarding the changes in the industry environment. The priority objective is a kind of "one-stop shop" for government information pertaining to everything related to medical technology. We also want to increasingly connect the industry sector. The medical technology industry is highly fragmented. This is a risk, yet it also offers various prospects for new collaborations. We need to take advantage of this potential. The National Strategy Process "Innovations in Medical Technology" has shown that increased networking will become a critical success factor for Germany’s position in the global medical technology market.
Why is networking of science, industry and politics so important?
Bujok: So far, medical technology is an industry sector that is shaped by high levels of vertical integration, short value chains and a very strong focus on technology. However, we are currently experiencing a transition: innovations continue to be driven less by technology and more by patient care. In other words, demand in health care increasingly determines the innovation market. What’s more, the value of a medical device is increasingly determined by the medical benefit of the corresponding treatment. This patient-centered innovation process offers new prospects for networking and collaboration not only within the industry sector but also with care, service and benefit providers. In the future, the digital healthcare trend is also going to be a major driver. Many career changers from the IT sector are not familiar with the details of the innovation systems in medical technology. We also want to close information gaps with the help of the portal and pave the way for cross-industry collaborations.
Who uses the platform and how effective is the communication between its users?
Bujok: The users come from the commercial industry, science, and healthcare. The popularity increases every month even though we still have not fully completed the platform yet. In the next stages of expansion, we will include various interactive elements to improve the communication at the portal between users and operators. At the same time, we aim for direct communication with the users, for example during events and trade fairs such as the booth of the German government at the MEDICA. Within the realm of our possibilities, we want to strive for a good balance between online communication and face-to-face contact.
The webpage offers a so-called InnovationsLOTSEN (English: innovation guide). What is this about?
Bujok: We want to provide a detailed overview of the innovation process in medical technology with the InnovationsLOTSEN. The goal is a kind of guideline for innovators that addresses questions during the innovation process with the necessary approach. Together with partners and experts, we want to provide users an overview of everything that is needed for an idea to become a finished product. At the same time, we are the project administrator for health care management for the German Ministry of Education and Research and manage a multitude of research projects. In doing so, we keep noticing that even though small and medium-sized companies have the necessary knowledge in research and development, they are not very familiar with the processes and default risks in certification, reimbursement and market development.
What long-term goals are you pursuing with this project?
Bujok: The current focus is the government’s intent to promote innovations in the medical technology sector over the long term in Germany. Since the regulatory requirements and markets are becoming increasingly complex, you need to be well informed. What’s more, there is less and less demand for individual products and increasingly more demand for system solutions – which doesn’t make any of this any easier.
This raises many questions for medical technology as an industry. The platform is able to shine a bright light on relevant trends and drivers in a timely manner. We should be constructive and assist in shaping the changes in the health care industry. I believe innovation policy is headed in the same direction as the overall industry.
The platform’s long-term goal is to contribute, to provide more information for the industry and to maintain the innovative capacity of the small business sector. The industry and its surrounding environment are undergoing very dynamic and sustainable changes. This requires an online portal that keeps all stakeholders informed and supports them.