Webinar Recap: Lessons Learnt from Rapid Innovations during COVID-19

Posted By Charnett Chau | Fri 13th, May 2022, 08:51:56 AM

On Wednesday, 15th December 2021, we hosted our first Lunch Time Innovation Webinar. We invited a broad spectrum of speakers to give insight into their role and experience in innovating during the COVID-19 pandemic and how to take their learnings forward to further innovating in healthcare. If you missed the Webinar, here is a full video of the event.

The Webinar started with our Materials and Manufacturing in Healthcare Innovation Network Manger – Dr Ana Rita Pinho giving an overview of our Network. Our webinar host, Dr Laura Bovo, Innovation Networks Manager from the UCL Innovation and Enterprise team, talked through her team’s in supporting innovation and conveyed her excitement for future healthcare innovation.

The first talk was given by Henry Pinchbeck, CEO of 3D LifePrints. He provided us with how the company is developed to utilise a readily available technology - 3D printing, to manufacture point-of-care medical devices meeting regulations. Please read the FDA's discussion paper on 3D printing medical devices and point of care. He also highlighted the importance of considering regulations when developing medical devices and the key learnings from developing “the Distancer.”  

Key Learnings from Henry:

(1) Regulation and standards must be considered right from the beginning of innovation.

(2) The necessity of a new product/service must be kept at the forefront when innovating. For instance, the Distancer has low necessity as coronavirus has a low likelihood to be spread through touch.

Dr Tom Dawson, Founder of Revolution-ZERO, highlighted how the pandemic has presented the need to reduce clinical waste arising from single-use PPE, particularly face masks. He shared the story of the Revolution-ZERO’s partnership with Royal Cornwall hospital on deploying the first circular business model to create zero-waste, zero-carbon reusable textile-based PPE in clinical hospital environments. 

Key Learnings from Tom:

(1) Sustainability and circular economy should be an essential part of healthcare product/service innovations.

(2) Partnerships with NHS in developing products/service models enables faster deployment, and therefore deliver impact faster.

Prof Rebecca Shipley and Prof Tim Baker, UCL, shared their journey for developing the UCL-Ventura CPAP device with UCLH clinicians and Mercedes-AMG High-Performance Powertrains, which was in response to the UK Government’s ventilator challenge. They highlighted that collaboration between the sectors has proven advantageous in bringing about rapid innovation that can benefit patients in a short timeframe. 

Key Learnings from Becky and Tim:

(1) Being part of an existing cross-sector network allows pulling expertise more rapidly to solve pressing healthcare problems.

(2) It is important to re-think (or question) the challenge that is set to allow better innovation. RE: UK Government’s ventilator challenge – the UCL Ventura-CPAP team aimed to keep patients off ventilators instead.

Lastly, Marck Aghnatios, Lead Partner for PA Consulting, described the survey they have developed asking MedTech companies how they have adjusted, how they innovated during the pandemic and whether this is sustainable beyond COVID-19. Drawing from findings, he explained how companies can sustain an accelerated pace of innovation and how PA Consulting can assist with this.

Results and key learnings from this survey can be found here

Our post-talk discussion was fruitful, with Laura asking all speakers what the key enablers and barriers to innovation post-pandemic are. We paraphrased their response below. 

Tom: Culture can be both an enabler and a barrier to innovation. For instance, the culture of single-use items and long-standing Infection Prevention and Control Standards has provided resistance to change. However, the culture of rapid communication on feedback can greatly push product development.

Becky and Tim: Transparency, openness about communication and trust are key enablers.  We must ensure we tackle the right problem, which is why end-user engagement and transparency around data from the start is important. Opinion-based over data-driven engineering can be a barrier, as it tends to drive innovation that has low relevance.

Marck: Practitioners and medical leaders sometimes see regulatory as a hurdle. There are a lot of innovative technologies – a large variety, languages used in regulations may not fully describe and/or be completely relevant to individual innovations – which can be a barrier. PA Consulting does engage with members of regulatory authorities in the US and EU to assist with projects – working collaboratively enables us to overcome the regulatory hurdle.

Our speakers also answered questions regarding regulations, clinical trials, and innovation support.  Please see the Webinar above if you have not tuned in to it yet.

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