ERC-RMB Students and Faculty Attend Workshop on Healthcare Innovation in India
A seven-member team from the NSF-funded Engineering Research Center for Revolutionizing Metallic Biomaterials (ERC-RMB), headquartered at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, traveled to India in October 2012 to participate in a Workshop on Disruptive Innovation in Healthcare at the Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IITM). The ERC-RMB team included students and faculty interested in technological innovation in healthcare delivery, which is required to bring down the cost of services, especially those desperately needed in hard-to-reach regions of the world.
As one of ERC-RMB’s international partners, IITM offers unique opportunities for US-based colleagues to learn and share knowledge. The technical presentations at the workshop on progress and initiatives in health care technologies focused on scalability, ease of deployment, and a low level of dependence on extensive sterile infrastructure. Exposure to these ideas in a setting where they really matter gave students and faculty perspectives about global needs and opportunities for their research and entrepreneurship that they otherwise would not get, making them more valuable as contributors to American industry and society.
Disruptive innovations represent a combination of appropriate technology with a socioeconomically appropriate business plan. While the economies of developed nations have slowed in recent years, developing high-population nations have continued a high level of GDP growth. These markets—including India, China, and Brazil—offer high potential for export of US goods and services, especially in high technology fields, such as healthcare. American engineering students and researchers need to be cognizant of the scale of the need, the economy, and the infrastructure, all of which strongly affect the choice of appropriate technology and the need for right sizing rather than supersizing.
Participants were strategically selected for this exploratory international initiative to maximize diversity and impact, and included three Ph.D. students, one undergraduate student, and three faculty members from North Carolina A&T and ERC-RMB partner, the University of Pittsburgh. In addition to attending workshop presentations and interacting with the subject matter experts, they visited a local biomedical research incubator and toured hospitals to get a first-person view of the practice of healthcare in a population-dense developing country with a huge economic growth rate. Plans were made for follow-up research and educational collaborations.
The workshop organizer and facilitator, Prof. Venkatesh Balasubramanian, is one of RMB’s international collaborators. An Associate Professor of Engineering Design at IITM, he heads that Institution’s Rehabilitation Bioengineering Research Group. This group is a collaborative of faculty members from four engineering departments, and a large number of graduate and undergraduate students.