In 2021, ZHAW university offered the first Swiss Biodesign Summer School. It offered a 2.5-week entrepreneurial sprint that effectively mimics the real-life challenges of developing disruptive medical technology and digital health innovation. The course design focused on a hands-on approach to interdisciplinary teamwork, clinical immersion in the hospital and international market orientation.
We specifically recruited for interdisciplinary project teams whose four members would cover the three key competences needed in a healthcare start-up: medical, technical, and business expertise. With an intensive six months promotion campaign in four different departments of our university, we were able to attract and interview for the desired diversity, skills, and motivation. The different backgrounds and terminologies created communication hurdles at the beginning but were much appreciated by the students for fostering impressive levels of analyses, creativity, and technical solutions.
A major ingredient and highlight of the course were a 1.5 day ‘clinical immersion’ at two partnering hospitals. All teams shadowed patients, physicians, and nurses to identify 30 unmet customer needs in gastrointestinal and respiratory diseases. Out of these, the market potential had to be systematically and internationally validated through eight compulsory interviews with medical experts and patients. Finally, further international perspectives were provided by presentations by the cofounder of Stanford’s Biodesign program as well as successful health care start-ups, such as AvaWomen, Zeit Medical, Hey Patient and Sequana Medical. Their insights into the US, EU, and Swiss markets as well as latest venture capital requirements provided exclusive insights into the start-up and investor world.