Edwin L. Aguirre
UMass Lowell and Northern Ireland’s University of Ulster have forged a new research partnership to advance international collaboration in the fast-growing fields of medical device technologies, innovation and health care.
Research and development and manufacturing of medical devices — which range from everyday gadgets such as digital thermometers, glucose meters and blood-pressure monitors to advanced devices like pacemakers, defibrillators, insulin pumps, microchip implants, neuroprostheses and medical robots — will become even more important in the United States as the country’s population ages and Americans live longer.
According to a recent article in the Medical Device + Diagnostic Industry magazine, the medical device industry is a driver of the country’s economic growth, currently employing more than 400,000 people directly and 2 million indirectly. Its exports doubled between 1998 and 2008, to $33 billion annually.
UMass Lowell, along with UMass Worcester, operates the Massachusetts Medical Device Development Center (M2D2), which provides entrepreneurs with expertise in plastics engineering, medical testing and business management from faculty members and the M2D2 advisory board and help them secure funding for their ideas. M2D2 operates a business incubator for startups on the UMass Lowell campus.
The University of Ulster operates a similar center in Northern Ireland, the Multi-disciplinary Technological Centre for Healthcare (MATCH). Together, the partner institutions will work with successful medical device companies to create a system of best practices to help speed the process of getting new products from the idea stage to the market.
“Fostering international relationships with key allies is critical in positioning Massachusetts at the forefront of cutting-edge scientific research and business development,” says Chancellor Marty Meehan. “This agreement between UMass Lowell and the University of Ulster represents a tremendous step forward for the global medical device industry, bringing experts on both sides of the Atlantic together to benefit both the United States and Northern Ireland.”
“The research of MATCH at the University of Ulster has demonstrated that business model innovation is critical for bringing technology to the marketplace in health care,” says Michael Brennan, Ph.D., senior lecturer on strategic marketing, entrepreneurship and strategy at the University of Ulster. “The UMass Lowell and University of Ulster collaboration will explicitly research how entrepreneurs bring such technologies to the market in different ecosystems, share best practices and create opportunities for business development.”
“Through this partnership, companies that work through M2D2 will have best practices to follow to move their products from concept to commercialization even more quickly,” says UMass Lowell plastics engineering Prof. Stephen McCarthy, co-director of M2D2.
The agreement will expand opportunities in burgeoning fields in medical science such as nanomedicine, biotechnology and biomedical engineering. It will also foster cooperative graduate education, research and training programs at the two learning institutions that will result in joint publications, faculty and student exchanges and study-abroad opportunities.
The collaboration with the University of Ulster represents the latest addition to UMass Lowell’s expanding network of partnerships with more than 95 universities in 40 countries.