Leading research institutions have officially launched the Binational Innovation in Healthcare NODO to push for the creation of technology startups in the Mexican healthcare sector. The strategic alliance between EGADE Business School, Tecnológico de Monterrey; the Mexican Social Security Institute (IMSS); the University of the State of Morelos; and the UNAM Biotechnology Institute is in response to the Conacyt announcement looking for “Binational Nodes.”
The Binational Innovation in Healthcare NODO is launched, a strategic alliance between EGADE Business School, Tecnológico de Monterrey; the Mexican Social Security Institute (IMSS); the University of the State of Morelos; and the UNAM Institute of Biotechnology, to push for Mexican startups based on cutting edge-research in the healthcare sector.
Backed by the Conacyt, this groundbreaking program in Mexico is based on i-Corps, a method developed by the U.S. National Science Foundation to offer support to researchers who hope to sell their technology through market validation.
For six weeks, the 21 projects led by researchers from the partner institutions will carry out 100 interviews with potential customers, to understand market needs better and to take a decision on the feasibility of the projects.
Fernando Moya, the project leader; Teresa de León, the technical secretary of the Technology Innovation Fund and the director of Technology Marketing at Conacyt; Fátima López, the director of the IMSS Technology Innovation Division; Verónica Rodríguez, from the University of the State of Morelos; Gerardo Corzo, from the UNAM Biotechnology Institute; Luis A. Márquez, the director of the full-time MBA in Innovation & Entrepreneurship and the director of the EGADE Business School, Mexico City Campus Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center; Eduardo Durón, an EGADE Business School professor; and Pedro López Sela, a certified I-Corps method professor, took part in the event.
At the launch, Dr. Fernando Moya, the director of the EGADE Business School Executive MBA, explained that the program is a result of previous experiences using the i-Corps method, such as the EGADE Business School “TEC Challenge: I-Corps” in November 2015, and the pilot program by FUMEC in May 2015. “The i-Corps is the method we’re taking from the U.S. National Science Foundation, whose goal is to take research out of universities and lead it to have an impact on the economy. The researchers leave the lab and have contact with customers and people who use their innovations, so that they can test their market feasibility,” he said.
“The spirit of this program is for research projects to have an economic impact, to turn them into a business. We want to help create more startups, to really bring the concept of innovation to life, and to change the mentality of the researchers about problem solving that affects people,” added Dr. Moya.
This program exposes the researcher—along with a team made up of a mentor with business experience, a research assistant, and an EGADE Business School grad student—to the methods the School uses. Participants begin with a hypothesis to be proven and develop a process to take market-based decisions. “Following the Lean Launchpad method, they start to work on the business model canvas to define the value proposition,” he explained.
For seven weeks, the 21 participating teams, which lead projects in nanotechnology, biotechnology, medicine, and others, carry out at least 100 interviews with potential customers to understand market needs better. By being in contact with potential customers, partners, and competitors, the participants learn to handle uncertain situations about marketing a technological innovation.
At the end of the program, the teams take a well-informed decision about the feasibility of their projects and the creation of their new startup, with evidence obtained from the market; they explain why they should go ahead with their project or not.
Instructor Pedro López Sela noted that the program changes the research culture, making researchers understand that their work must have a market application. “These days, we have a success rate of more than 60% of projects that take the entrepreneurial route, and more than 1,000 projects have already taken part in the program in the U.S.,” he said. He also emphasized the importance of liaisons among teams. “The knowledge transfer between the teams and the open communication channels with other actors lead to shared learning.”
Meanwhile, Luis A. Márquez commented that an ecosystem is formed such that the tested project is connected to financing. “We understand the importance of pushing the entrepreneur from below to keep creating value throughout the chain. The interests of investors such as business angels or venture-capital funds are tapped so that they can invest in these types of projects,” he added.
The technical secretary of the Technology Innovation Fund and the director of Conacyt Technology Marketing, Teresa de León, argued that the goal of the NODOS project is to “polish” the entrepreneurial projects, to test them, and to teach them to handle risk management better, so that when they ask for funds, they are more certain about their developments. She noted that the Conacyt has three support mechanisms for business innovation projects: the Technology Innovation Fund, the Innovation Stimulus Fund, and the Fiscal Stimulus Program.
Finally, Fátima López, from the IMSS, noted that, “Through this program we give researchers the opportunity to broaden their knowledge and abilities; the projects we choose are here because we believe that they solve an important problem.”
In this program, which ends in July, the teams face the real world, where they learn to deal with their potential customers through face-to-face interviews, and to experience the possibility of achieving a knowledge transfer of the products and services they offer with a benefit to society.
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