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Tech Hubs grant puts ASU at ground zero for medical device manufacturing

Skysong Innovations will help devices get to market

Stethoscope next to laptop with medical icons on top
November 28, 2023

A grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) will put Arizona State University at the forefront of medical device manufacturing.

The Medical Device Manufacturing Multiplier Strategy Development Consortium, or MDM2, led by the Greater Phoenix Economic Council (GPEC), was awarded one of 31 Tech Hubs Strategy Development Grants by the EDA in late October.

The Tech Hubs program, authorized by the CHIPS and Science Act, is investing in U.S. regions and aims to transform them into globally competitive innovation centers.

Marco Santello, a professor in ASU’s School of Biological and Health Systems Engineering within in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, will serve in a leadership role in the MDM2 consortium, and ASU will contribute to lab-to-market strategies by leveraging the expertise of Skysong Innovations, ASU’s tech transfer organization.

ASU News talked to Lara Ferry, associate vice president of research for Knowledge Enterprise, about ASU’s role in the consortium.

Editor's note: The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Question: Can you detail ASU’s involvement in the consortium?

Answer: The Greater Phoenix Economic Council bid focused on medical devices specifically with a nod toward the neuroscience space and development of tech to bridge a gap in health care to improve health care access. Marco was an inagural director of the BRAIN Center, which is an engineering plus neuroscience center, with researchers who are thinking about these kinds of devices. Marco will lead a technical working group for GPEC. ... And we have the power of Skysong behind this as well. Skysong’s contribution is to accelerate the going-to-market element, which is critical to the mission of the EDA Tech Hubs

Q: In what way?

A: Once the Hub engages with small businesses that might be working on an idea, wherever they are in that space, Skysong can help to take them further, improve the time between tech and development and tech launch into the marketplace. We’ll also have an opportunity to bring in the J. Orin Edson Entrepreneurship + Innovation Institute, here at ASU, to create the training for entrepreneurs and to provide the people and resources to support the entrepreneurs; help them pitch their ideas, get feedback and, again, accelerate the time to market. That’s something we do really well between Skysong and E+I. It’s a space where we’ve been able to help launch literally hundreds of ideas endeavors.

Q: Will ASU be designing medical devices, or is it about helping others get their devices made and marketed?

A: A little of both. Marco’s thought leadership might help decide what sorts of devices to focus on, and certainly some of that can be inward facing to ASU. ... But also, part of the purpose of the Hub is to really lift the community. So, ASU will play a huge supporting role in bringing the community into Skysong and bringing the community to E+I. ... There’s also a strong emphasis by the EDA to make sure that we’re reaching out to the communities that are historically left behind.

Q: Can you expand on that goal?

A: The EDA is strongly interested in making sure that we’re partnering with local organizations like the Black Chamber of Commerce or our Hispanic Business leaders associations. We must make sure that there’s equal access for all communities and that must include and that must include, for example, minority-owned small businesses that have been typically left out and not invited to participate in the same way. That’s a big role ASU can play because access is a part of our mission. We can reach out in an authentic way to say, “What do you need? How do we meet you where you’re at?”

Top photo courtesy iStock/Getty Images

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