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International Research Exchange for Biomedical Devices Design and prototyping (IREBID) is a Marie Curie funded project (FP7-PEOPLE-2009-IRSES-247476) whose principal aim is to strengthen research partnership through short period staff exchanges and networking activities. The consortium is composed by the following six partners from European and non-European countries: the University of Girona (UdG – coordinators) from Spain, the University of Brescia (UNIBS) from Italy, the Polytechnic Institute of Leiria (IPL) from Portugal, the Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education (ITESM) from Mexico, the Center for Information Technology Renato Archer (CTI) from Brazil, and Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey (Rutgers) from USA. Particularly, this European project focuses on improving collaborations and knowledge exchange between medical and technological sectors in order to find innovative solutions in the healthcare field.

Driven by the growing demand for more effective, appropriate, and affordable health products, new customized medical devices are being developed opening a new market opportunity for the technological and industrial sectors. Nevertheless, there is a marked lack of knowledge exchange among stakeholders (doctors, patients, engineers) when it comes to design and medical product development. Doctors and patients need to transmit their necessities and requirements to the engineers in order to generate more efficient devices. In this situation, the two main goals of the IREBID project are: (1) to establish channels of communications and synergies through the exchange of staff (early stage researchers or experienced researchers) between partners’ organizations; and (2) to develop innovative products within the medical field. Consequently, the IREBID project attempts to create a high level of expertise and understanding on design, prototyping and manufacture of medical devices using computing tools, biomaterials and other innovative manufacturing technologies.

To achieve the first project’s objective, the European Commission (EC) funded 414 secondments from Europe to America and from America (except USA) to Europe. The European funds covered travel costs and subsistence allowances. Secondments within European countries or American countries were covered by the organizations' own budgets. On the other hand, to achieve the second objective, four main activities were executed: workshops with expert doctors, engineers, and companies; lectures with experienced researchers; joint research projects between partners; and periodic meetings.

Concerning the workshops, three different types of activities were developed. Firstly, during the kick-off meeting held in University of Girona (Spain) several workshops with doctors were carried out. These sessions generated an appreciable pool of ideas about medical devices, prostheses, and treatments. These ideas were the starting point of the case studies developed as joint research projects. Secondly, during the kick-off meeting a workshop executed with Spanish companies was useful to show the goals of the IREBID project and involve the industrial sector. Finally, during the project, several workshops with early stage researchers, experienced researchers, and doctors were carried out in order to exchange medical and technological knowledge.

Various joint research projects were established between two or more IREBID partners with the objective of developing innovative medical solutions. The secondments funded by the European Commission provided an interchange of knowledge and expertise between partners, nurturing the joint research projects and enhancing the quality and the impact of the results produced within the IREBID project. On the other hand, several meetings were held in order to manage the project, involve master or PhD students in research on medical devices, and update the joint research projects and their results.

Hitherto, up to thirteen case studies have been developed within the IREBID project. The main results obtained so far are: (1) information and knowledge about different topics such as tracheal stents, scapholunate implants, skull models, hip prostheses, pelvic floor models, exoskeleton, bioreactors for tissue engineering, biodegradable screws, surgery simulators, biopsy micro-forceps, and maxillofacial prostheses among others included in various state of the art reports; (2) design methodologies, conceptual designs, and prototypes of many medical devices including tracheal stents, scapholunate, hip and maxillofacial implants, skull and pelvic floor models, exoskeleton, bioreactors, surgery simulators, biopsy micro-forceps, micro-needles, and biodegradable screws; (3) 29 scientific publications in research journals, 64 publications in international conferences, 13 news about the project in trade magazines, 2 special issues with IREBID papers, and 1 summer school. In addition, many teaching material used to exchange information between ESR and ER; (4) a life experience, through nearly 414 abroad adventures; and (5) several additional activities have been accomplished during the project: the generation of an international conference (International Conference on Design and Processes for Medical Devices, PROMED), a first case studies collection book about tracheal stents, a book titled “Biomedical devices: design, prototyping, and manufacture” that will be published by Wiley, a special issue that will be published in Virtual and Physical Prototyping (VPP) Journal, and a flagship project about open-surgery laparoscopy simulator.

Summarizing, the two main expected final results, which are the secondments and the generation of innovative medical devices, have been widely achieved. Synergies between the medical and technological fields have been established and knowledge and expertise about medical devices has been transmitted. These results are invaluable when creating new research opportunities, PhD programmes, and R&D in general. Moreover, the development of new medical devices can be considered a market opportunity for the companies interested. In addition, the IREBID partnership has decided to continue with the development of these, and new, medical devices in order to cross the valley of death and reach the market with innovative medical solutions. In this context, the IREBID consortium has involved other partners such as industry, and materials and electronics experts, to participate in a second edition of the IREBID project. This proposal has already been submitted in the European H2020-MSCA-RISE-2014 call (IREBID 2 – proposal number: SEP-210168604).