The time it takes to bring an innovation from the Laboratory to the marketplace is especially critical when it comes to medical products that impact patient care. Streamlining this process can have profound positive consequences. The question is: how? "Fraunhofer has it's own innovation strategies that are based on the close collaboration between basic research and applied engineering," states Prof Hans-Jörg Bullinger, President of Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, Europe's leading Organization for Applied Research. At the inaugural colloquium in Boston, engineers and scientists from Fraunhofer and Boston University will meet with entrepreneurs, corporate executives, venture capitalists, and government officials to discuss different recipes for success. "The new ‘Boston University – Fraunhofer Alliance for Medical Devices, Instrumentation and Diagnostics’ is not only a wonderful example of a close collaboration between outstanding researchers at Boston University and the Fraunhofer-Center for Manufacturing Innovations", explains Bullinger, "it is also part of our strategy in the US, that focuses on emerging areas, such as biotech/biomedical technologies”. Dr. Anke Hellwig from the Fraunhofer International Business Development adds: "The Alliance is part of the industry-Fraunhofer-academia network which we establish at several locations in the US, by combining excellent university expertise with the technology transfer competence which Fraunhofer is known for." "Boston is the ideal place for the medical technology alliance,” says Prof. Andre Sharon, director of the Fraunhofer Center for Manufacturing Innovation CMI. "Engineers, researchers and medical doctors have been working here hand in hand for a number of years." The new network links together engineers at CMI to biomedical researchers at Boston University. This team, in turn, works closely with doctors in reputed hospitals and clinics such as the Massachusetts General Hospital. Sharon, who also holds tenure as Professor of Manufacturing Engineering at Boston University, points out that "this gives us a tremendous advantage in developing commercial medical products." This collaboration couldn’t be much closer – in every sense of the word: The CMI premises are practically next door to the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Boston University. Researchers can meet whenever they like to discuss problems or develop new ideas. Together the teams have already developed a new manufacturing system for DNA arrays. "Of course, this collaboration had its challenges”, remembers Sharon. "To start with, engineers and biochemists talk in different languages. They needed to learn how to communicate using the same terms. Then, there were also technical problems that had to be solved." Despite these challenges, an automated production machine to produce DNA arrays has been successfully developed and is currently used to produce arrays for diagnostics experiments. Based on the success of their longstanding collaboration, in the beginning of 2007, CMI and Boston University, in conjunction with Fraunhofer Institute for Production Technology IPT in Aachen, founded the ‘Boston University – Fraunhofer Alliance for Medical Devices, Instrumentation and Diagnostics.’ "The example shows, how the cooperation will consolidate the existing ties between CMI and Boston University in the field of biomedical engineering, and accelerate the transfer of brilliant ideas into medical practice," declared Professor Hans-Jörg Bullinger. "We at Fraunhofer consider this type of bridge-building between basic science and applied engineering to be an important driving force for future innovations." Both Fraunhofer and Boston University have agreed to provide funding for the new alliance for a period of five years: A total budget of five million U.S. dollars has been set aside for this purpose. From 2012 onward, the research teams will be expected to be self-supporting, financing any further research through independent project revenues. Any resulting revenues and license-fee earnings are to be shared equitably between Fraunhofer and Boston University. The research teams intend to conduct at least two projects a year as joint undertakings. Their objective is to develop each year at least two prototypes ready to be commercialized. These products will be brought to the market either by a spin-off company, or by licensing to a business partner. About CMI The Fraunhofer Center for Manufacturing Innovation CMI was founded in 1993 by Prof Wilfried König , Director of Fraunhofer Institute for Production Technology IPT in Aachen. Today the center has 25 staff members, faculty, and students. The focus of the Center is on the development of next-generation instruments and high precision automation systems for the biotech/biomedical, photonics, and semiconductor industries. Increasingly, the Center focuses on biomedical technologies, instruments and devices. The close collaboration with Boston University anchors the Center in the American research landscape, while at the same time providing a sustainable basis for technology transfer between European and American industry. Through the new alliance, CMI intends to expand its activities in the field of medical engineering. This evolution goes hand in hand with the IPT’s increasing focus on biomedical research topics. For this reason, too, IPT director Prof.Fritz Klocke sees strong opportunities for cooperation in the years to come.
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