Wanted: Top ideas to help a medical device get off ground

  • Article by: JAMES WALSH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 2, 2011 - 8:32 PM

Competition at Carlson School of Management gives students a look at challenges facing industry.

Ten teams of University of Minnesota graduate students filed into Room 1-147 at the Carlson School of Management on Thursday evening, ready to lend their ideas for helping Medtronic overcome the marketing and regulatory challenges of launching a new medical device.

For the next 36 hours, students from various fields -- law, medicine, public health, business, among them -- brainstormed strategies designed to help them better understand the medical device industry while possibly helping Medtronic overcome some of the challenges in a hyper-competitive industry.

By the end of next week, three teams' ideas will have risen to the top and will be judged by senior Medtronic officials, with the top strategy winning $4,000. It might even help Medtronic find a "go-to-market" strategy that the company has not yet tapped, said David Giannino of Medtronic's U.S. coronary sales operations.

"We're still in the process of forming the kinds of ideas we're going to need," he said.

This is the fourth year that Medtronic and the University of Minnesota's Medical Industry Leadership Institute Student Association have hosted the Medtronic Interdisciplinary Healthcare Case Competition at the Carlson School. The idea is to bring together a cross-section of university students to find innovative ways to a strategic problem currently faced by the medical device industry.

This time around, the student teams must find a way to assist a new device that is currently approved for sale in Europe push Medtronic's cardiovascular fortunes "over the top" in the U.S. as well.

"This competition is a great opportunity for University of Minnesota students to showcase their tenacity, expertise and drive to Medtronic," said Stephen Parente, director of the university's Medical Industry Leadership Institute.

Past winners have not only gained valuable real-world experience, but snagged good jobs. The key to success is how well the strategy addresses all of the challenges facing the new device, said Kris Carver, vice president of the student association, who participated in the competition last year. Alas, he said, he didn't finish in the top three.

"If you want to work for Medtronic, getting in that top three is pretty good," said Carver, who wants to get into medical device marketing.

The students come from seven different colleges. Each team will present its analyses and recommendations to a panel of academic and industry judges on Saturday. The three finalists will present their cases to a panel of senior executives at Medtronic headquarters Dec. 9. First place carries a $4,000 prize. Second place is worth $2,000, and third place $1,000.

The competition has rewards for Medtronic as well.

"[It] is a great opportunity for students to create new partnerships, gain insight into our business and develop leadership skills," said Will Au-Yeung, regional finance leader for Medtronic. "And it offers us the chance to evaluate the students in a real-world scenario."

James Walsh • 612-673-7428

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