12 Oct Disruptive Innovation
Designing medical devices can be an expensive undertaking. It can cost thousands of dollars for a traditional setup to make microfluidic chips or a centrifuge to isolate the components of a multi-constituent sample. Luckily, the creative minds that are focused on solving complex, technical problems don’t stop working when there’s a tight budget.
In The Innovator’s Prescription, Clayton Christensen discusses how disruptive solutions are the evolutions that take the status quo to the next level. They may or may not be technical leaps, but they are new business models that take Blue-Chip titans by surprise, knocking them from #1 and leaving them trying to catch up. Think Canon taking printing business from Xerox by moving it from the giant mega-machine to the desktop. Christensen’s book specifically addresses the business models of health-care, but many of the concepts can be easily transported to other industries.
Here are two examples of the DIY mentality creating some disruptive, and hopefully game-changing, solutions to common problems.
Michelle Khine is an Assistant Professor at UC Irvine working on microfluidics and nanotechnologies. As part of their research, she and her team developed a technique to create microfluidic chips quickly and cheaply using Shrinky Dinks®, an oven, and a printer. Although she was just trying to get her lab up and running quickly, she ended up creating a breakthrough technology that resulted in her being named one of MIT’s TR35, an award given to top innovators under 35 years old. Yes, the toys of childhood are now the research tools of the future. So, if your boss asks you why you have Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots on your desk, you can point to this.
Technology Review 2009 – A children’s toy inspires a cheap, easy production method for high-tech diagnostic chips
Chemistry students at Harvard University devised a $2 device to separate plasma from blood using an egg-beater and a few other parts. The resulting plasma is more than sufficient to detect diseases such as Hepatitis B and cystercosis. While not quite ready for the major laboratories, the device would be useful to doctors in remote locations without the financial resources to send blood off to a lab for testing.
Photo credit: Malancha Gupta