In the past few years, Spaulding Rehabilitation Network and the Harvard Medical School Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation have begun to make a concerted investment into growing the innovation ecosystem of Boston and beyond with a focus on the community with disabilities. Through two hackathon events, including the first one ever focused on rehabilitation medicine and the development of the Spaulding Accelerator business program those efforts have begun to produce. This Spring, Spaulding made its boldest statement yet to the entrepreneur and innovation community that it wants to foster and encourage more investment in rehabilitation and disability with the Spaulding Hospital $150,000 Innovation Challenge.
Dr. David Binder, Instructor in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Harvard Medical School and Director of Innovation at Spaulding led these efforts. “Investment into disability and rehabilitation medicine has been slower than other areas of medicine but the potential is vast. For this challenge, we wanted to identify start-ups, researchers and teams with solutions and technologies aimed at improving functional ability and quality of life to those with physical impairments or disabilities,” said Dr. Binder.
The main event was held at Google Headquarters in Kendall Square in Cambridge with over 250 in attendance and live streamed to thousands of viewers at Google Campuses world-wide. In the months leading up, Spaulding via social media and professional networks put out the call to the innovation, research, academic, life science, health care and business communities to offer ideas and submissions for consideration for the challenge. Over 80 business proposals were received and Dr. Binder and a team of over a dozen judges from across the business, innovation and health care spectrum and selected the 8 teams who will make their live pitch at the event.
“I was blown away by the creativity of the submissions. I think we have multiple ideas that hold the potential to become start-ups that we can help facilitate. I also wanted this effort to encourage those looking to invest or be part of dynamic new ideas for the health care market to come and hear these pitches. With our judges, teams and industry leaders like Google, MIT Hacking Medicine and Mad*Pow Designs, this event is a chance to network and meet the people who will be leading the next wave of innovation for our field,” said Binder.
The winning team Free Will, which created a simple adaptation for a person in a wheelchair to easily attach a child’s stroller received $100,000 in Google Cloud Credits and Google Surge Startup, $7,000 Cash, $5,000 Legal Services from Foley Hoag and a 3 Month Membership to the Cambridge Innovation Center. Spaulding's own Dr. Jaye Hefner and Dr. Sarah Grey were part of a team with a product focusing on virtual reality in healthcare won the best design award receiving $10,000 design services from Mad*Pow.
The ultimate goal of the Spaulding Innovation Challenge is to advance the mission of Spaulding and rehabilitative medicine by improving the quality of life for patients and families. “This is such an exciting time as the power for innovative ideas to revolutionize our approaches is greater than ever and we are thrilled to help foster that momentum,” said Dr. Binder.