Imperial College London has an active technology transfer facility, overseen by Imperial Innovations, a subsidiary company of Imperial College London. Susan Searle, Imperial Innovations’ CEO, opened the Innovation Showcase by introducing the company to the audience. “We provide business development and technology transfer services including strategic industry-university partnerships, patenting, licensing, spin-out incubation and spin-out equity management.”
James Ollerenshaw (Austin Lawrence, UK) spoke to early stage companies about the differences between public relations, advertising and media relations. He advised on ways to promote a company and its technology that do not cost very much. Continuing the budget theme was Devanand Crease Keltie (London) who spoke no cost-effective ways to protect intellectual property rights. “Not cheap, mind you,” he cautioned. “You need to choose a patent attorney who can understand the needs of a small company – the challenges and pressures.”
Stuart Rodger from Vascutek Terumo advised young companies to partner up for clinical to commercial development, particularly if they have very new and innovative technology. “You don’t have to do it on your own first time,” he commented. The commercial side of innovation was introduced by Peter Hinchliffe (Datascope), Alan Edwards (Credent) and Chas Taylor (Veryan Medical), who spoke about the opportunities in the market, how to get money and the differences between the US and Europe.
The highlight of the morning’s programme was the new technology highlights, where new devices were interrogated by a panel of experts for their technological functioning and commercial potential. Tim McGloughlin (Limerick, Ireland) introduced the Prolong vascular graft, designed by a team from the Centre for Applied Biomedical Engineering Research (CABER) at the University of Limerick (Ireland). This is an unusual looking graft that is split into two channels that rejoin before the distal end. The blood flowing out of each of the channels meets in the middle of the prosthesis instead of striking the opposite side of the artery wall. “The blood-flow recovers to normal much faster,” he added. Willie Loan (Belfast, UK) spoke about the newly launched second-generation Aorfix aortic stent-graft from Lombard Medical, which can be used in angulated necks. However, the star of the show and the panel’s technology of choice was the ‘Hoppy seagull’ endostapler, a retractable staple developed by Brian Hopkinson (Nottingham, UK) that can be used for many applications, including attaching a stent-graft to the aorta.
Making innovation happen
In the afternoon, attendees gained valuable insights into the workings of an entrepreneur’s or inventor’s mind through talks from Sir Richard Sykes, John Abele, Tom Fogarty, Stu Foster, Juan Parodi and John McDermott. Abele described the effect of a company’s size on its ability to innovate. He said that while bigger can seem better it does have drawbacks. “In a big house it can take a long time to answer the door,” he joked.
As it was one of the last sessions on the last day of the conference, there was an air of joviality to the proceedings. The old rivalry between Fogarty and chairman Roger Greenhalgh provided much amusement for the audience; the balloon catheter inventor tried to devote his entire talk to “the health benefits of wine” but claimed he was vetoed by Greenhalgh. However, Fogarty got his own back by enthusiastically ringing the bell to close out the talk on physician-inventor success factors from Foster. Another eminent inventor, Parodi, explained how observation is crucial to innovation, and the whole session was completed by McDermott’s talk on making your idea the standard of care.
Many of these expert opinions and the novel technologies on show can be found in the new publication from BIBA Medical – Cardiovascular Innovations – which was also launched at the Showcase.