10 questions with Acorn Product Development Director Rachel Robinson
We have been making the case for years that the Southeast medtech ecosystem is as robust as stalwarts like Boston and Silicon Valley. The clinicians, hospitals, engineers, researchers and supporting infrastructure are all here.
Four years ago Acorn Product Development, a company with 25 years of experience providing comprehensive product engineering services across multiple industries including life sciences, medical device and robotics, responded to growing demand for its services by opening an Atlanta office to complement its Silicon Valley headquarters and Boston offices.
Rachel Robinson, Business Development Director for Acorn Product Development, recently shared with us the Southeast medtech ecosystem’s advantages, needs and why they chose to invest in a sponsorship for this year’s SEMDA Medtech Annual Conference.
Q: What triggered Acorn’s investment in an Atlanta office?
A: We were receiving more and more requests for information and services from companies in Florida, Georgia and Tennessee, especially in the commercial and startup communities. We saw high demand from young, hungry startups seeking prototyping and hard core engineering services. We were also seeing growth in our work with large companies already in the region and with companies on the West Coast who had an interest in supporting some of their increased operations in the Southeast. There has been an embracing of innovation, particularly in robotics and technology transfer coming out of Georgia Tech.
Our Southeast Engineering Manager Brad Range, a Georgia Tech alumnus, ‘volunteered’ to lead the new office and off we went.
Q: What do you feel are the biggest needs for the Southeast medtech ecosystem to connect, align and grow?
A: More visibility. We have the people required to give medtech companies of all sizes access to all areas of medtech development expertise within easy geographic reach. We want to make sure there’s an understanding among those companies and programs that everything they need is here.
As is almost always the case, we need more funding. There are a few large companies and investors willing to take a chance. We need to prove to them medtech development and commercialization can be done as efficiently here as anywhere else.
Q: What advantages does the Southeast (or Atlanta) have over other centers of medtech innovation like Boston or Silicon Valley?
A: The cost of living and total cost of development is lower and more acceptable for smaller companies. Companies don’t have to raise as much money to achieve the same milestone or inflection point. There is also a strong sense of community here. Other centers of medtech innovation are more cutthroat. There is a real sense in the Southeast that we are not only here to make a buck, but make really exciting innovative technology in a supportive environment.
Young medtech companies benefit from an experienced community that is very much behind them and willing to provide meaningful support.
Q: What does the southeast need to increase its competitiveness with those markets?
A: Be more forward thinking. The SEMDA 2018 Medtech Conference agenda addresses that. What’s next? We are about to hear from the companies and individuals bringing us what’s next.
Q: What gives you a sense of optimism for regional medtech growth?
A: More companies are attempting very interesting things and taking chances. The universities here are incredibly strong. Georgia Tech Engineering is among the very best in the entire country. In the medtech space, they’re thinking about wearables and robotics. The tech transfer teams are working to get those engineers and researchers to the next level, ready for product development. More Southeast organizations, including governmental, are demonstrating a willingness to put their money where their mouth is. I would like to see Georgia do that even more.
Q: Tell us a bit about your history of engagement with SEMDA
A: This is Acorn’s second year attending the Medtech Conference. It is a perfect fit for us. We had such great response and interactions at the 2017 event with big hitters like Medtronic and Smith and Nephew. We also met several exciting young companies and innovators with whom we are very interested in working.
Q: Why do you feel compelled to increase your support for SEMDA in 2018?
A: The response we received participating in the 2017 Medtech Conference was incredibly positive. We asked ourselves what more can we do? How else can we support the organization and be more closely involved? Robotics is a huge area for us as a company. Surgical robotics is fast paced and growing. There are a plethora of Southeast companies trying to take robotics to next level in medicine. SEMDA provides an efficient, concentrated way of connecting with them. We couldn’t pass up the opportunity.
Q: How will you measure the success of your SEMDA sponsorship?
A: In the short term, how many people did I meet and how many would I like to establish a long-term relationship with?
Long term: what impact did those interactions have on an organization or individual that might not need me right now, but had a positive reaction to our conversation? Without a conference like this, I would not likely have access to the people working in tech transfer, in the innovation hubs and the commercialization arms of the larger companies. I can spend days or weeks on the phone and not generate the level of engagement I can at the SEMDA Medtech Conference.
Q: With whom are you most interested in connecting at SEMDA?
A: Anyone working in surgical robotics. From companies like Intuitive Surgical, Medtronic and Smith and Nephew to emerging innovations and young companies we have not yet had the opportunity to meet. I’m looking to find what I don’t know and what’s not in front of me yet but should be.
Q: What else would you like to share?
A: Our Southeast Engineering Manager Brad Range is moderating panel on the current state and future prospects for robotic healthcare, on day 2. Where are the opportunities within hospitals to automate technology in order to relieve pressure on clinical personnel currently doing things manually. We want to free up nurses and doctors to be able to provide more patient care, not necessarily monitoring.
Make sure you contact partners and representatives of companies you’d like to meet with early and often. You’re not alone and you’re not an island. There will be things you’re really good at. Find the perfect team to surround you with the expertise you don’t have. Take advantage of the existing community and ecosystem and ways they might be able to help. SEMDA is the perfect place to meet them. It’s low risk and can provide significant opportunity.
Learn more about the 2018 SEMDA Medtech Conference here.