The leaders of the medical device community in Michigan have many accomplishments to be proud about. For example, in Ann Arbor the careers Dick and Norma Sarns have spanned over 50 years. In 2012 Dick received an honorary Doctor of Engineering degree from University of Michigan. Then UM President, Mary Sue Coleman had this to say about Mr. Sarns:

“his ongoing quest for innovation that has led to a host of discoveries to save cost of discoveries that have saved lives and will create better outcomes are many years to come.”

Today, nearing the age of 90, Dick and Norma are still at it, running Nu Step, which has  designed and manufactured in Ann Arbor almost 100,000 recumbent cross trainers, keeping all of us fit and healthy. I should know, I use one regularly at the Washtenaw Community College Rec Center.

In Kalamazoo, Dr. Homer Stryker founded his company in 1946. Today it is a $9 billion leader in medical technology and employees over 22,000 people.

Both the Sarns and Stryker families are unique in being extremely generous to their communities.  Almost single-handedly they have created the ecosystem which supports the thriving medical device community in Michigan.

To celebrate and communicate about the success of this industry, last month I invited a panel of entrepreneurs in the medical device industry to discuss their accomplishments. The leaders represented on this panel ranged from one year to over four decades.

According to a blog post about this event by Steve Gill and Jim Stilwell:

“The contributions these individuals have made to the medical device industry have included the development of surgical tools as well as laboratory tools, cardio vascular rehabilitation equipment, cardio pulmonary devices, advances in neuro technology and a recumbent bike used in most hospitals, rehabilitation centers and more recently in homes. The passion and excitement each presenter displayed when talking about their careers, their companies and the medical device industry in Michigan was palpable.”

If you were not able to attend, here is the video of the event
Sponsors include: Bank of Ann Arbor, Rehmann, Roger Rayle Virtual Ventures, and Zingerman’s Roadhouse.

The speakers included these founders and CEOs:

  • Jennifer Baird co-founded Accuri Cytometers, Inc. in 2005
  • Neal Clinthorne co-founder of Xoran Technologies, Inc. and serves as its Director of Research and Development
  • Dick Sarns founded Sarns Inc. in 1960
  • Scott Merz co-founded MC3 in 1991
  • Brandon McNaughton, President and Co-Founder of Akadeum Life Sciences.
  • Mickey Noonan is the VP of Research and Development for Stryker IMT (Innovation in Medical Technologies).
  • Robert Chisena, or University of Michigan graduate student and founder of MichelAngelo

Over 90 Business and thought leaders attended the Leaders Connect event at the Zingerman’s Roadhouse.  Here are some of their insights from the presenters and the audience participants about what it takes to create a successful medical device ecosystem in Michigan.

  1. It does take a village to grow a company.  It is not just the companies themselves, it is the whole community that makes it possible to build a business.  (Jennifer Baird)
  2. Entrepreneurship is the dumbest thing you ever thought of…. & if you still want to do it, then you’re an entrepreneur.  (Scott Merz)
  3. Team meetings are important to understand what we were doing and who we are as a company.  (Jennifer Baird)
  4. It takes 10 – 15 years to develop an idea to a commercial reality.  (Neal Clinthorne)
  5. Your connections act as role models.  (Brandon McNaughton)
  6. It takes time and many start-up ideas to gradually and eventually evolve the talent. (Scott Merz)
  7. There are 4 important pieces: the physical element, places for people to get together; the social element, attracting the right people; intellectual; and financial elements. (Mickey Noonan)
  8. Tech Transfer can help start-ups get going very early on.  (Dave Gregorka)
  9. Ecosystem has exploded in the past couple years, particularly because the medical school culture is becoming more supportive of entrepreneurism. (Connie Chang, Fast Forward Medical Innovation Team)
  10. Communicate to those not in the industry to translate what it means to have the research occurring in the community.  (Britney Affolter-Caine, Michigan University Research Corridor)
  11. Bring together the end user and the innovators.  (Paul Riser, Med Health Regional Innovation Culture Group)

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