How Smith & Nephew’s InVentures program is promoting innovation

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Smith & Nephew InVentures

Smith & Nephew’s InVentures has developed devices including a a suspension-based bone implant for the shoulder (left) and a set of seven instruments to arthroscopically treat meniscal root tears (right). [Images courtesy of Smith & Nephew]

For nearly a decade, Smith & Nephew’s InVentures program has worked with surgeons who have innovative ideas but aren’t starting their own companies.

The program provides a third innovation route on top of the major two for big medical device companies: internal R&D and acquisition of smaller companies with new technologies.

“A company the size of Smith & Nephew – we have scale by being in contact with  surgeon end users, who see and appreciate opportunities for improvement in care through their challenges in everyday surgical problem solving that may be hard to accomplish with the solutions currently available in the market,” said Jeff Wyman, who has been VP of InVentures since 2011.

“As opposed to surgeons charting out on their own [course], we created a portal where they have the ability to come to us first with problems that they may have or ideas for improvements,” Wyman said. “The business  we established is built around a robust idea management system where we can evaluate ideas for their intellectual property, merit, strategic fit within the organization and manufacturability.”

(See Wyman discuss innovation and product development at DeviceTalks West, Dec. 11–12 in Orange County, Calif.)

InVentures has an experienced team that does the appropriate level of scouting to determine whether an idea has merit or not.

Also, most of the verification and validation efforts in a large company’s internal R&D are tied into large-scale, high-volume manufacturing, Wyman explained. InVentures – similar to a small company – is able to operate with more swift design control activity that still ensures high product quality and regulatory compliance.

The program is producing results. Earlier this year, two technologies developed through InVentures received recognition in Orthopedics This Week‘s Sports Medicine Technology Awards:

1. Enabling arthroscopic shoulder reconstruction for recurring shoulder dislocations

Working over four years with Dr. Pascal Boileau of Nice, France, and Dr. Ettore Taverna of Milan, Italy, InVentures created a suspension-based bone implant for bone grafting the socket and rebuilding the soft tissues of the shoulder that does not require metallic screws for patients who have recurring shoulder dislocations.

“One of our faster-growing segments in the business right now is shoulder reconstruction, and so this system looked at the problems associated with recurrent shoulder dislocations in active athletes, where the gold standard operation is an open operation,” Wyman said. “[The new] system actually took the procedure from an open technique to an arthroscopic technique and created a series of instruments as well as the surgical technique steps to be able to basically do the same operation arthroscopically.”

2. Meniscal root repair instruments

InVentures worked with doctors at The Steadman Clinic in Vail, Colo., to develop a set of seven instruments to arthroscopically treat meniscal root tears. The instruments locate the posterior meniscal root footprint and fixate the tissue back to their original location.

“This system actually dovetails in the extension of preserving the meniscus in athletically minded individuals who are young and active, who obviously want to have the ability to return to their normal lives of an active lifestyle,” Wyman said.

(See Wyman discuss innovation and product development at DeviceTalks West, Dec. 11–12 in Orange County, Calif.)

How do you know your technology is disruptive enough to break conventional wisdom?

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On December 12th, Rowe will sit down with MassDevice editor Brad Perriello for a long ranging discussion about the inside story on how these technologies came to market and what Rowe learned along the way.


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