Medical Device Industry Roundtable Summary Highlights
September 24, 2007


Eric Allyn, Al DiRienzo, Jack Rudnick, Kim Townsend, Welch Allyn, Inc.; Martin Brusdeilins, Ortho-Clinical Diagnostics; John Demarest, NYSTAR; Mark Donovan, Conmed Corporation; Heather Erickson, MedTech; Brian Fleming, InfiMed, Inc.; Judson J. Gotsin, Sensis Corporation; Bruce A. Holm, Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Science; Harold Meckler, AMRI Global, Inc.; Nancy Nussmeier, SUNY Upstate Medical University; Jeong Oh, Syracuse University; Gerald Sonnenfeld, Binghamton University; Mike Wetzel, Air Innovations

Assemblymembers William Magnarelli, Joseph Morelle and Al Stirpe welcomed the participants to the Welch/Allyn conference facilities in Skaneateles Falls for a discussion of the future of the medical devices industry in New York.

The participants engaged in a lively exchange about the medical devices industry, but much of the discussion extended to more general themes in technology-based economic development: convergence among high technology businesses and products, the need for State policy to respond to the changing landscape, and the importance of educating a workforce that will stay in the State.


The medical device industry has moved beyond crutches and glasses, and there is now a "merging or convergence" of technologies that are not necessarily medical in nature. For example, Welch/Allyn developed bar codes to track hospital equipment, but their use has expanded significantly beyond the initial purpose. The company also invented and is producing specialized LED light bulbs that initially met a specific product equipment need. Today, these bulbs are utilized in everything from flashlights to aircraft. Presently, Welch/Allyn is moving towards developing a common platform for its products reflecting, in part, the continuing convergence of technologies.

State Policy

Just as the medical device industry does not and cannot operate in isolation, New York State economic development policy needs to adjust to the reality that "true innovation requires convergence of thinking" (Holms). Participants noted that, because it is increasingly hard to define clusters geographically or by technology, government has to move beyond clustering as well. Clusters need to evolve and be more diverse (Sonnenfeld), and comprehensive economic policies that encourage interactions between "dissimilar organizations/companies" need to be developed (Gotsin). Many see successful economic development as an ecosystem rather than something derived from discrete clusters; in fact, it was suggested that even the traditional economic development regions are now artificial and may no longer make sense (Erickson).

Several discussants observed that the State has a number of good economic development programs, but there is little coordination among them. There are too many state agencies involved, and staff members tend to be generalists with little or no scientific background. In addition, programs are not strategic and do not have clearly articulated constraints and options (Gotsin).

It was also broadly agreed upon that while measuring performance is important, the traditional criteria for making funding awards in the State, jobs, is not always the best indicator that high tech economic development is successful. There are other indicators - including the number of doctorates awarded in high tech fields, patents, new businesses - that are appropriate measures. Even incubator programs are still in the "manufacturing mode" and not the "high technology mode" (Sonnenfeld). It was also suggested that the State needs patent and invention inventories (Wetzel).

Several participants observed that New York State needs to look not only at what other states are doing, but also other nations, notably:

  • Euromed - The European Union's Medical Device Association

  • Biopolis - Singapore's technology (biology and other technologies) entity to help commercialize technology. Labor and equipment subsidies are provided.

  • Ireland - Software/ information technology

  • India - Biopharmaceuticals


The theme of convergence also applies to the workforce (Oh). For example, there is a substantial need for medically-trained - including biology, chemistry, engineering - individuals to work in technology companies, from lab and bench work to research and development. Introducing students to this area begins, of course, long before post-secondary education, and business needs to be more active in K-12 education, encouraging mentoring and internship programs. An example is the Buffalo Center of Excellence's involvement with high school programs in the area. This activity goes beyond the mission statement of the Center. It was also suggested that New York encourage co-op educational/employment programs that have been successful in other places. Overall, discussants made several observations about the present and future workforce, including the fact that in order to ensure that university students will want to stay in an area after graduation the environment must be attractive, and State investment to ensure this needs to continue.

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