In the first installment of our Innovation Inspiration series, we profiled EDUpreneur Dr. Wiljeana Glover, Babson College’s faculty director for the Schlesinger Fund for Global Healthcare Entrepreneurship and Assistant Professor for the school’s Technology, Operations, and Information Management Division. In that post, Dr. Glover highlighted Babson College’s partnership with the Consortium for Affordable Medical Technologies (CAMTech) to organize the 2016 Global Surgery Hack-a-thon at Mbarara University of Science and Technology and facilitate the CAMTech-Babson Innovation Leadership Fellowship.

TargetX & CAMTech Innovation Inspiration

Partnerships with EDUpreneurs like Dr. Wiljeana Glover play a central role in CAMTech’s co-creation model, and that’s why we wanted to shine a light on the innovative work that CAMTech does. Based at Massachusetts General Hospital Global Health, CAMTech identifies pressing clinical and public health needs from the field, crowdsources innovative solutions, and accelerates the cycle from idea to patient impact.

Now, you may be thinking — what can my campus learn from a network of academic, clinical, corporate, government and non-profit partners that aims to drive health innovation around the world? Read on for three higher education-focused considerations based on CAMTech’s inventive approach to overcoming global challenges.

Co-Creating Solutions to Pressing Clinical and Public Health Challenges

Solving pressing clinical and public health challenges of our time requires novel methodologies. CAMTech implements a co-creation model to solve for these pressing clinical and public health challenges by convening experts in public health, clinical medicine, design, engineering, business, government, as well as members of anticipated target communities. Developing a global ecosystem that invites diverse backgrounds and skillsets allows for innovators to co-create solutions for United States and global public health challenges alike, like gun violence prevention, access to community health services, and opioid use disorder.

CAMTech supports innovators through bootcamps, hack-a-thons, solutions sprints, the CAMTech Accelerator Program (CAP), and the online CAMTech Innovation Platform (CIP). Bootcamps, hack-a-thons, and solutions sprints provide innovators a space to learn from experts identifying challenges and then to work towards co-creating solutions that solve for these challenges. The CAP and CIP offer seed funding, expert match-making, and peer-to-peer learning between innovators, mentors, and investors to accelerate these solutions from ideation to commercialization and patient impact.

What Would a Co-Creation Model Look Like for Higher Ed?

Today, 40% of students who begin college fail to complete their degree within six years. Like public health, solving challenges associated with student persistence requires a new way of thinking to make a meaningful impact. We cannot get comfortable with statistics like this — the national retention issue for post-secondary education demands a paradigm shift that redesigns the current student experience to one that places strategic emphasis on student success and support services. 

What would it mean for your campus to adopt an ecosystem that supports innovation by collaborating with members of the community, faculty and staff from different institutional areas, local businesses, alumni, and even your current student body to hold open discussion around the current challenges higher ed faces and brainstorm potential solutions? This could provide an interactive forum for new ideas by bringing together people with diverse backgrounds and skillsets that share a common goal. Plus, you might uncover actionable tactics to provide the best possible experience for your students and an even deeper connection to the surrounding community.

Innovating for Impact: High Tech, Low Tech, No Tech

CAMTech operates as a challenge first responder. The solutions to pressing clinical and public health challenges range from iterating care processes to developing novel software and hardware. In 2017, CAMTech measured outputs from its global medtech ecosystem that include “high-tech, low-tech, or no-tech” elegant solutions. Among 365 projects in India, Uganda, and the U.S., 30% continued progress on patients or in clinical settings. Innovators filed over 32 patents, formed at least 33 companies, and raised $5.34 million per hack-a-thon over one-year average. Approximately 60 percent of projects included hardware, 20 percent were process innovations, and 20 percent were software-only solutions.

Many innovators filed patents, formed companies, raised funding, and iterated their high tech, low tech, and no tech solutions alongside innovators they met through CAMTech’s global innovation events. CAMTech measured 30% of innovators had at least one team member work on an additional technology with someone they met at a hack-a-thon, and 45 teams had a member obtain a job or a position as a result of attending a hack-a-thon. Importantly, many companies or products that were ideated or accelerated upon the CAMTech platform have commercialized in India, Africa, and the United States as both for-profit and non-profit ventures. These range from Coeo Labs Saans device and Aindra Labs in India, to SaniDrop and PRISMS in Uganda, to PillPack and We Are Allies in the United States.

How Can Your Institution Innovate for Impact?

Like CAMTech, your institution should serve as a challenge first responder when it comes to student’s needs. Gone are the days when the typical undergraduate was fresh out of high school with few responsibilities, bright-eyed and eager to study full-time to earn a degree in a linear fashion. In fact, almost 75% of students now share at least one of the characteristics that comprise the “new” traditional population:

  • wait after high school to enroll in post-secondary education
  • attend college part-time while working full-time
  • have dependents who are not their spouse or partner
  • are financially independent from their parents for purposes of financial aid
  • have completed their high school degree through a certificate or GED program

Does your campus take a proactive or reactive approach to putting students first, knowing their needs are more complex now than ever before? Think of ways you can innovate for impact. Could you offer services like financial aid, advising, or tutoring during non-traditional hours, like after 5 p.m. or on the weekends? What about child care for students who are parents? Do you have enough parking to conveniently serve commuters?

From Global South to Global North

During its first six years, CAMTech largely focused its resources to build a global ecosystem in India and Uganda. Learnings from this history now informs efforts to co-create elegant solutions to pressing clinical and public health challenges in high-income settings. The co-creation model CAMTech implements in India and Uganda has shown to foster human-centered design, champion early-stage innovators, and accelerate innovators’ solutions from ideation to commercialization and patient impact.

Transferring this co-creation model from the global south to the global north allows for innovators and budding EDUpreneurs at Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, and elsewhere to join CAMTech’s global network. Identifying pain points voiced by medical trainees, clinicians, and patients, enables translation of these pain points into solutions to improve the healthcare.

We must see a practical innovation process as a necessary tool for the clinical and public health community to address the urgency of providing universal, value-based care. Applying a co-creation model will move the needle on innovating affordable medical technologies to address pressing clinical and public health challenges of our time.

Fostering Student-Centered Design in Higher Education

At its core, CAMTech’s co-creation model fosters human-centered design to transform ambition into meaningful impact across the world. By thinking like an EDUpreneur, your campus can take a similar approach and inspire student-centered design to disrupt the status quo in higher ed. In everything you do, make sure to put students front and center to create a long-lasting relationship and empower their success at your institution.


*Special thanks to CAMTech’s Kristian Olson, MD, MPH, DHTM & Nicholas Diamond, MPH for contributing and collaborating with us on this piece.