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International innovation

Student, med-tech partnership to help explore U.K. markets

By Susan White

An innovative international med-tech exchange will see six local startups and six business students from Memorial University explore opportunities in the U.K. Innovation Corridor this semester.

Stone buildings are pictured from the air. There are many trees surrounding the buildings.
Memorial commerce students and med-tech company members will use Memorial’s Harlow Campus in Harlow, U.K. as their work base.
Photo: Submitted

Led by Bounce Health Innovation and Memorial’s Faculty of Business Administration and Harlow Campus, and with financial support from Mitacs Canada, the International Med-Tech Innovation Exchange will cultivate the bidirectional exchange of ideas, connections and opportunities for med-tech startups.

Health-sector innovation

“COVID-19 has been a tremendous global challenge but one silver lining is the level of innovation we are seeing in the health sector,” said Dr. Chandra Kavanagh, director of Bounce Health Innovation. “The pandemic revealed gaps and flaws in medical systems both here in Canada and around the world, and it has forced health-care systems to explore technology in ways they haven’t before. The result has been incredible opportunities for innovators and entrepreneurs to step in and solve some of these issues with technology startups.”

The aim of the trip, says Dr. Kavanagh, is to increase the number of med-tech entrepreneurs engaging with markets in the U.K. and to encourage U.K. companies to explore markets in Newfoundland and Labrador.

“This is an incredible opportunity to learn about the U.K. marketplace, specifically how med-tech is sourced, trailed and procured.” — Dr. Stephen Ryan

After undergoing training prior to the mission, the participating companies — Amp Health, Granville Biomedical, JVPLabs, Luxsonic Technologies, PolyUnity and PragmaClin — will connect with potential partners, funders and clients in the U.K. Innovation Corridor, using Memorial’s Harlow Campus as a base.

The campus is located in Old Harlow, midway between London and Cambridge, and centrally located within the corridor, which is the U.K.’s fastest growing innovation space.

“This is an incredible opportunity to learn about the U.K. marketplace, specifically how med-tech is sourced, trailed and procured,” said Dr. Stephen Ryan (B.Sc.’12, MD’18), co-founder of PolyUnity, which uses 3D printing to provide health-care solutions. “We’re ready to scale, and finding strategic partnership through this Harlow mission can accelerate our market presence in the U.K.

“I’m also really looking forward to learning more about the amazing companies in our travelling cohort, and how we can work as a team of entrepreneurs to strengthen the tech sector here in Newfoundland and Labrador.”

‘Something completely new’

Each company is paired with a student in Memorial’s bachelor of commerce (co-operative) program, who will spend four months at the Harlow Campus conducting market research and undertaking other initiatives to support each company’s objectives.

Allison Wragg wears a grey sweatshirt with the PolyUnity logo on it.
Commerce student Allison Wragg will be working remotely for PolyUnity in Harlow.
Photo: Submitted

Allison Wragg, a fourth-year commerce student from St. John’s, is working with PolyUnity.

“International business is something I’ve studied in classes throughout my years at Memorial, but getting to actually put myself out there and experience it first-hand is something completely new to me,” Ms. Wragg said. “I think being in the U.K. will really give me a sense of what business is like in Europe and will be a great point of learning as I delve further into my education.

“For me, the best way to learn is being able to try everything hands on,” she continued. “There is really no better place to gain hands-on experience than the U.K. Innovation Corridor, where I’ll be fully immersed with the fast pace of international business.”

Engaging a student to help with expansion efforts is a bonus, says Dr. Ryan, particularly as the companies leave Harlow following a five-day exchange while the students stay behind.

“As a startup with a small team, everyone has a vital role and limited bandwidth to do extra tasks,” he said. “Without the help of our students staying in the U.K. for the semester, necessary followup and implementation would not be possible.”

Engage globally, act locally

President Vianne Timmons says the new program aligns with Memorial’s strategic priority to engage globally and act locally.

“Reinvigorating Harlow Campus is an important piece of Memorial’s internationalization efforts,” Dr. Timmons said. “One way we can do this is by ensuring our students who are studying in Harlow have unique opportunities to connect with the vibrant and exciting Innovation Corridor in meaningful ways. This is an opportunity for our students to gain real-world skills while making a positive contribution to our province. It’s a truly exciting initiative.”

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