Medtronic drives innovation, eyeing new products to stay on top

BioWorld MedTech™, the global medical device news service from Clarivate Analytics, developed a series of articles on how key companies in the industry approach innovation. Below is an excerpt from the profile of Medtronic plc. Click here to access to the full series.

Medtronic plc is the largest pure-play med-tech company in the world by far – and it aims to keep it that way over the long term. Key to doing so is its ability to innovate continuously by taking both small and big steps to advance its products.

The Dublin-based company takes its approach to scouting innovation seriously, with hundreds of people throughout the organization who are committed to calling out R&D opportunities in their field for the company to advance. In addition, Medtronic has established a list of core competencies in which it is dedicated to cultivating innovation, either organically or by adding partners or acquired capabilities.

Medtronic plc is one of the few med-tech companies to have appeared on the Derwent Top 100 Global Innovators list (also from Clarivate Analytics) every year since 2014.


Organizing for innovation

“If you think about innovation, obviously it’s using knowledge in a new way to create value. And from my standpoint, if you solve a problem – the better you solve that problem, the more value you create,” Michael Hill, VP of corporate science, technology and clinical affairs at Medtronic, explained to BioWorld MedTech.

“So, that’s kind of the perspective for me and for the technical community that is extremely important. The other one is new technology. We have an enterprise-wide technology strategy and scouting system that is actually probably one of the largest in the med-tech industry.”

He started out at the company almost 30 years ago as a scientist and now manages its approach to innovation. “We have our Technical Fellows, probably about 300 people strong,” he continued. “Basically, part of their job is to do technical scouting, meaning looking out for new technologies in the 14 focus areas of technology that we have put forth as important today and important for the future as well for Medtronic.”

About two-and-a-half years ago, Medtronic CEO, Omar Ishrak, put together an internal group to assess its innovation priorities in the near and longer term. This resulted in those 14 focus areas that help to guide internal research priorities, as well as partnering and acquisition activities.


I think regenerative medicine is going to be at the forefront, as will be additive manufacturing and augmented reality in how we learn.

– Michael Hill, VP of corporate science, technology and clinical affairs, Medtronic


Medtronic has organized these by the extent of its own internal competencies currently. Areas of interest where it has limited knowledge, where it aims to create new expertise, include: additive manufacturing to create parts from a computer file for rapid prototyping; big data and analytics to improve patient care and disease management; biomarkers for personalized care for disease states including cardiovascular disease, brain atrophy, cancer and treatment monitoring; predictive modeling to prevent episodes and improve outcomes; as well as bioengineered tissue regeneration and replacement.

Data and analytics are at the heart of making more closed-loop systems, which act to treat patients based on real-time analytics, a reality. Hill said that he expects these sorts of systems, in tandem with effective behavior modification, will be crucial to future developments.

Hill also highlighted the long-term potential of additive manufacturing and regenerative medicine. “A decade from now, I would expect to start seeing that we’re starting to implant some pieces of regenerative tissues, which are going to change the way that we think about health care and how these products are done,” he said “I think regenerative medicine is going to be at the forefront, as will be the additive manufacturing and augmented reality in how we learn,” he added.


Expanding capabilities

The company aims to further deepen its existing core competencies in another series of areas to prepare for its future. These include: combination drug-device products; device connectivity and wireless charging; data management to deepen the patient relationship and enable population health efforts; medical imaging and visualization, including the aforementioned augmented reality; patient sensors to better monitor disease state; and miniaturized ultrasound enabled with AI.

Finally, Medtronic is also looking to dealmaking to enhance areas where it already sees itself as a primary competitor. It’s always looking for internal and external opportunities to further enhance its innovation when it comes to materials, microelectronics as well as power and batteries.


Read the full BioWorld MedTech report on global innovation in medical devices.

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