Innovation and entrepreneurship in Biomedical Science

In the Biomedical Sciences laboratories, students learn the skills and acquire knowledge to develop the latest medical inventions that will benefit us all. But how do you make sure that innovations deliver the value they are trying to provide? In search for an answer, the master Biomedical Sciences teamed up with UMIO’s Service Science Factory (SSF).

Innovation Sprint

SSF developed an innovation sprint that challenges students to come up with innovations based on an outside-in customer focus, and complement it with a sustainable business model. All squeezed into a 2.5-week period. A deliberately ambitious timeframe, that resulted in some very inspiring ideas that show real potential for further development.

On September 20, in a big lecture hall at the Randwyck Health campus, SSF Innovation Coach Damien Nunes and master coordinators Ronit Sverdlov and Jan Theys welcomed around 70 students to the kick-off to the innovation sprint. Then the real work started in small teams of five to six students. They had to choose a real world target group they wanted to help, and to which they had access in the upcoming weeks, because interaction with the target group is crucial to uncover and understand actual needs and context. This in-depth understanding is then complemented with insights from reports, academic literature, surveys and other research methods.

Real world target group

Because of the constraints of a real world target group and a limited period, the students need to get organised quickly and define their own case and research approach. This is quite different from the regular Problem Based Learning (PBL), where they are given a predefined case to research and solve, but conforms well with scientific practice where they have to define and describe their own projects.

A common mistake when developing innovations is being too attached to the first idea and only look for feedback that confirms the validity of that idea. To avoid this pitfall, students were encouraged to develop multiple ideas simultaneously. This approach has several benefits: prioritising needs and insights to determine if you are actually solving the right issue, and experiencing that there are often multiple ways to solve an issue. These are important learning points that surface during the prototyping and validation phase.

Creative approach and minimum effort

A good idea is only as good as its implementation, and a sustainable idea can only survive with a solid business model. The students were encouraged to hold on to their creative approach in the transition from concept development, to business model, and implementation roadmap. In short: finding creative ways to lower the investment risk, and demonstrate the real life value of a solution with the minimum amount of effort.

The results

Two and a half weeks later, the 12 teams pitched and battled against each other, and then the four best ideas were pitched in front of an expert jury. Some of the inspiring, funny and creative ideas the teams came up with: a wristband to wake-up sleep walkers, a sports community app for UM-sports to engage the student community, an education evaluation tool to provide UM-teachers with quicker feedback, an app to stimulate co-dining between students with fresh and locally produced food, and even a dating service to balance the gender imbalance of the student population in Maastricht (more women) and Aachen (more men).

Energy, creativity and agility

The jury consisted of experts with a background in business, innovation and entrepreneurship. Their favourite turned out to be an entertainment system for hospitalised patients called ‘ready patient one’. It aims to cater for the entertainment needs of a patient population that is diverse in age, cultural background and mobility, and therefore has very different entertainment preferences. The innovation sprint resulted in a lot of energy, with students showing their creativity and agility, and expanded their skills with regard to customer-centric research and design. Some of the projects have already caught the attention of stakeholders, and might continue their life and impact after this sprint. Let us see if they get implemented…