Inventor gadget

UCT’s holistic approach to developing innovative, award-winning medical devices.

04 June 2024

Sudesh Sivarasu, UCT

Abiomedical engineer by training, the director of the Biomedical Engineering Research Centre at the University of Cape Town (UCT) and the head of UCT’s MedTech laboratory, Professor Sudesh Sivarasu has always looked at medical innovation a little differently. After working in prosthetics, he realised that patients have limited say in what kinds of technology is used. “It’s not about the technology per se, it’s about the nuances, access and regulations relating to the technology,” he says. “This is a drastic shift in the mindset for developing new technology.”

At the MedTech Laboratory, Sivarasu’s focus is not innovative medical gadgets, but translation. “Only when you start the journey of translation do you realise that there is more to innovation than what happens in academia,” he says. One of the biggest challenges faced in product innovation across every sector is failure. Clayton Christensen, the late Harvard Business School professor known for his theory on disruptive innovation, estimated that out of the 30 000 products introduced each year, 95% miss the mark. However, in academia, failure to launch isn’t an issue. Researchers are focused on publishing so even if a product fails, you can publish the data. “There’s no real incentive for academics to push their innovations through the entire value chain. Academics are chasing publications, not patents,” Sivarasu says.

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