If You Build It, They Will Innovate

When you type “innovation in Detroit” into a Google search, the results are a rather interesting mix of links about our city’s history (mostly related to automotive) and articles both doubting and touting the future potential of innovation creating new businesses, products and jobs in Detroit.

One link in particular that stood out was an article published a few years ago in the Huffington Post. The headline: Detroit – Innovation City?

And it’s a fair question. With all that Detroit has weathered, can a few scattered ideas change its image, create a hub for talent and develop a solid strategy for revival?

Today, we have an answer to that question: The Innovation Institute at Henry Ford, which officially opens today (Oct. 10) on the Henry Ford Hospital campus.

The Innovation Institute is an important step forward in creating an environment to foster new ideas in medicine, as well as find creative solutions to identify best processes in patient care.

But we aren’t taking the traditional route to innovation.

Think of it this way: Many of you have probably looked at some product in the hospital, your home, or other parts of your life and said, “I think this would work better if it was designed like this (insert your idea here).”

Speaking for myself, I unfortunately do not have the ability to design the “new” product. Even when I have attempted, I certainly did not have the expertise to engineer and field test the product to have proof of its improvement.

So with the Innovation Institute, we went back to two of our core competencies:  Innovation and partnering/collaboration.

The innovation was to think “out of the box” by creating the space, the convening opportunity, and the relationships to move the Innovation Institute concept ahead.

The partnering/collaboration came in the form of some incredible local groups: College for Creative Studies (CCS), a world leader in art and design education, the Smart Sensors and Integrated Microsystems (SSIM) Program at Wayne State University, which has a long history of developing products for the auto industry, Department of Defense, NASA and Intel, and The Henry Ford (museum and village).

Each offers a fresh perspective on medicine and a remarkable set of intellectual assets. Along with the Henry Ford Medical Group, the Innovation Institute partnerships are really a perfect marriage of medical science and engineering – all under one roof.

Already, the Institute has launched several dozen promising projects, including:

  • Virtual breast biopsy
  • Surgical probes that can instantly differentiate malignant vs. normal cells in brain cancer
  • Endotracheal equipment products that allow any user, trained or untrained, to intubate a neonatal patient quickly, easily and precisely
  • An ergonomic operating room chair for surgeons
  • A waiting room communication system that keeps patient families informed through every step of their loved one’s surgery

To fuel innovation, creativity and energy are needed. If you need an infusion of both, look no further than the young, with freshness of ideas and, importantly, untouched by preconceptions.

These types of ideas do not come from people such as me. (When I first heard about the social network, I thought it was a new cable television channel.)

I recently had the opportunity to speak to the senior designs student at CCS who will be working this year with the Innovation Institute. (I get way more out of these meetings than the students do. I leave the meeting exhilarated.)

What makes these students unique is that they are imaginative thinkers, with little to no experience with doctors or hospitals, making it possible for them to see our hospital environment in a completely new light.

The Institute first joined with CCS last winter, and that first class of students far exceeded our expectations.

They had new design ideas for patient rooms and waiting areas, and even developed conceptual designs for new surgical and diagnostic tools. In fact, we were so impressed with the CCS students’ work that we hired two of them after graduation to work at the Innovation Institute.

We want to keep the ideas flowing.

And that is what the Innovation Institute is all about – taking medicine to the next level by creating new products, collaborating on new ideas and potentially opening the door to new jobs and business ventures in Detroit.

Watch the video posted above to learn more about the Innovation Institute at Henry Ford or visit the Innovation Institute online.

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