A curious and engaged audience was present at this summer’s TREAT Workshop, “Evading the Valley of Death.” TREAT co-director, Rick Greenwald, PhD, was presenting at the end of RESNA’s 2016 annual conference in Arlington, VA – concluding a week jam-packed with meetings, exhibits, talks and networking. However, in the midst of all this activity, Dr. Greenwald’s presentation was unique and likely an unfamiliar experience for most of the conference’s attendees.
Amongst the buzz surrounding great ideas and innovations in rehabilitation and assistive technologies, Dr. Greenwald was there to describe the harsh realities of device commercialization and define the underlying challenges that prevent most innovative and well-intentioned ideas from reaching the people who need them. The “Valley of Death”, a common term in product development, exists in the attempt to translate novel research outcomes to the commercial markets and relates to the inability, for myriad reasons, to cross the chasm from idea to product. “The translation of research findings into real-world practice is a long and arduous process in which the majority of initiatives end up failing to meet their objectives,” states Dr. Greenwald. “The sad truth is that years of valuable research ends up shelved and hidden away from those who could benefit the most.”
The TREAT workshop was designed to help innovators identify potential pain points along the path to commercialization and develop strategies to overcome those obstacles. Additionally, the material highlighted the different roles, responsibilities, and perspectives of clinicians, researchers, engineers, investors and consumers in the risk-filled process of rehabilitation technology commercialization.
Dr. Greenwald shared successful strategies distilled from years of actual experiences from the TREAT Leadership Team and TREAT Grantees. “Translating technology for public consumption or clinical use is both an art and a science requiring real-world experience, actionable intelligence, and meticulous planning,” states Dr. Greenwald. “TREAT’s process aims to help entrepreneurs identify potential risks and develop action plans.”
TREAT is a multi-disciplinary consortium of business, technology and clinical experts with a mission to disseminate best practices for translation and commercialization of rehabilitation and assistive technologies. TREAT offers a variety of assistance programs to help innovators evade their own valleys of death, including pilot project grants for funding and in-kind services, educational resources, entrepreneur fellowships and sabbatical opportunities. Stated Jerry Weisman, a workshop attendee, rehabilitation engineer, and past President of RESNA, “We’ve seen some exciting new technologies at the conference this week. Dr. Greenwald’s presentation identified the commercialization challenges these innovators face, the need for creating strategies early on in the development process to overcome them, and the resources TREAT can provide to help decrease the risk involved. “
If you missed TREAT’s workshop at RESNA/NCART you can catch it at the ACRM Annual Conference: Progress in Rehabilitation Research in Chicago on Friday November 4, 2016.