5 years wiser in only 10 months!

The BioMedical Design Programme (BMD) is an intense 10-month experience loaded with tons of

invaluable learnings. Here are some of the reasons we, Team Inventricle, think we got 5 years wiser in 10 months.

Facilitator of the week

Since interdisciplinary teamwork is a cornerstone of the BMD programme, there was a lot of

excitement leading up to the team announcement and team building seminar. We were lucky to

be placed in a very diverse team, with both engineers, doctors and a nurse. At the seminar we

were introduced to the phases you have to go through to become a high performing team –

Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing. Like most other teams we also had to go through

these and it wasn’t always easy. But we learned a lot about each other and our team dynamics

along the way. One thing that we implemented was to have a “facilitator of the week”. That made

sure that everyone had the opportunity to plan and direct the team in the tasks at hand, and we

learned that our team worked a lot better when someone explicitly took the role of facilitator.

Get out of the building

Working with MedTech innovation you have to leave the office space. No matter if it’s about validating needs, ideating concepts, or testing prototypes, getting out of the building is an essential activity to master. It’s almost a philosophy or way of working that will influence most activities and make sure you don’t base decisions on assumptions. However, you have to be smart about how you talk to patients and clinicians as they can easily lead you down the wrong path if you don’t phrase your questions the right way. To do this right, we found “The Mom Test” by Rob Fitzpatrick to be a fantastic resource.

See one, do one, and raise the bar

During the programme, a general learning concept is the “See one, do one” concept. Monday

could be filled with inspiring teaching from domain experts, and then the rest of the week is for

you to go out and try what you’ve learned in your specific project. This is an excellent way to

make knowledge stick with long term memory. In addition, outcomes are frequently shared

between the teams to inspire each other. A sense of healthy competition among the teams

helped us all raise the bar for what can be done, like going across the planet to validate a need or

meet with key opinion leaders.

You make your own calls

On paper, the creative skills phase is about how to generate ideas. The tools to facilitate this are thoroughly taught, but our favourite takeaway from this phase is the mentality of being our own autonomous design team. No matter the tool, it’s our responsibility to stay agile and modify those tools to best test our hypotheses.

Never too late to pivot

During our time at the programme we have heard many tales of all the amazing pivots that have

happened in the previous cohorts. Luckily, we got to try one ourselves as well, and hopefully it will

be added to the list that the future fellows will hear about.

We only had about 6 weeks left before the final pitch when we decided to pivot and focus on

children with urinary incontinence instead of collection of urine samples, so we had a lot to do in

a very short time. But we learned that this time we could really divide and conquer because we

had learned so much the first time around. It made it a really fun and exciting experience to try

and get as much as possible done in such a short time. We managed to talk to a lot of

stakeholders and interview several parents and children in both Denmark and the USA. We even

did a Facebook campaign to understand more about our potential customers and the willingness

to pay.


All of this led us to the culmination of the programme, which was the final pitch. All through the

programme we have been training our pitching skills both formally and informally. This is such a

valuable skill no matter what you do – to be able to clearly communicate a need and idea to

anyone no matter what their background is, and in a way that they will remember it afterwards.

So, what now?

At the moment we are wrapping up our project and our time at the programme. No one from the team is continuing on with the project as of now. Instead, we are handing over the IP and all of our knowledge in this area to the BMD programme. We do this because we want to share what we have learned and so the project can continue to live on if any students or future fellows want to continue some of the processes that we started.

We are excited about our future. Frederik and Christian already landed jobs at Duckwise and Trifork respectively, and will continue a journey within Digital Health. Gulcin and Nanna are still looking for the right match workwise. Nanna is looking for a job where she can combine her nursing background with all the new skills she got as a Biomedical Designer.

New Year – New Creative Phase

As we rang in 2021 from home, the Biomedical Design fellows also entered the creative phase – from home.

I have always thought of myself as a naturally creative person. But, having been in academia my whole life where structure and formality (sometimes) outweigh being disruptive, I was so excited by the creative sandbox prepared by our mentor Pernille Kølbæk. Pernille’s expertise as an experience designer and her experience at LEGO, really intrigued me ever since the beginning of the program. It’s not just a fancy title, it also makes a lot of sense. And I have always been curious to learn how “play” is used in driving innovation. The kid in me was ready.

Grounded by Covid-19

But it wasn’t an easy journey. The impacts of COVID-19 were still very much felt around the globe. The situation kept evolving and we were ultimately forced to work from home. So how much play can you actually do during lockdown? Thanks to Pernille’s quick thinking and ability to adapt, she redesigned the whole curriculum to work in an online space. And from my perspective, it actually worked out for the best!

New situation – new tools

We kicked-off the creative phase by migrating to Miro, an online collaborative tool, that works pretty much like an electronic whiteboard. It was the perfect medium for doing all the fun activities lined up to exercise our creativity. We started out by unpacking the healthcare needs we had identified by working on a creative design brief. This was quickly followed by the introduction of ideation tools and techniques, with the help of Syddansk Sundhedsinnovation, Randi Lehmann (The “Crazy 8s” is one of my favourites).

Crazy 6 drawings on an early idea on how to protect healthcare staff from radiation.

Rapid prototyping

Using random materials that we could find at home, we were also trained in creating rapid prototypes for our ideas. Given a very short time limit, we were forced to be quick, resourceful, and effective in translating our imagination to something malleable. This proved fun and useful for us in coming up with solutions – ranging all the way from the silly to the promising ones.

Testing, testing, testing

Equipped with the necessary facilitation skills we were able to go out and ideate with external experts and contacts. We were also fortunate to learn from IDEO U teaching lead, Bre Przestrzelski, on the essentials in facilitating co-creative sessions. In collaboration with the Kitchen, Aarhus University’s start-up hub, Pernille prepared two ideation sessions for us to practice our facilitation skills in. Leaning into the program’s timeline, my team, composed of Camilla Waldstrøm, Mercedes Marin, and I, organised four online external ideation sessions with 20 experts from various fields. Tapping into our new learnings, we were able to successfully come up with clearer solution directions for our healthcare needs. To break out of our zoom fatigue, we would sometimes sneak out and work together in person 🙂

Team Sky having a meeting in my living room

And even more testing

To help us see if the solution fits our users, Randi Lehmann returned to give us a workshop on scenario training. This was a very fun workshop where we had to role-play our users in an online space to uncover gaps in the solution. Pernille then invited Martin Ibsen and Peter Lindberg of Syndicate for a very insightful idea exploration and value proposition workshop to help us unwrap the value and potential of our healthcare solution ideas. Martin and Peter challenged us to test our solution hypotheses by testing out our pretotype. My team rose up to the challenge by organising a rapid test on 30 participants over 5 days. Our efforts paid off as this revealed how a small focused experiment can help set the direction of our product development. My team celebrated by sledding down a snow hill and clinking a glass or two (or three).

Team Sky went to the snowy hills of Aarhus to celebrate the successful testing of their pretotype

Structure and formality are needs-to-have after all

Of course, not everything is fun and games, throughout this phase. We were also challenged by issues and sensitivities regarding idea ownership. This was really highlighted by instances where teams working on similar topics had to ideate internally with the same group of people. For me, this emphasized the importance of confidentiality and the use of non-disclosure agreements. It also offered an opportunity for self-reflection, and allowed us to re-visit our team values.

Online session with BIoMedical Design Fellows 2021
Ending Create Skills Phase with a thumbs up

Time for a pitch

At the end of the creative phase, we were tasked to pitch our ideas to the Biomedical Design advisory group. We were nervous, but it turned out to be such a pleasant culmination for all the hard work we have done in this phase. It allowed us to consolidate all our results and bring our ideas one step closer to becoming a start-up. Looking back at what we just went through, Pernille’s creative phase curriculum exceeded my expectations. I might not know how it is sans lockdown, but all I can say is, I wouldn’t have done it any other way. 

Need some answers?

Webinar about the BioMedical Design Programme

Webinar about the BMD programme with managing director Sys Zoffmann Glud and fellows Lene Ladegaard and Kasper Linde from the 2019/2020 cohort.

If you have unanswered questions about the BioMedical Design Novo Nordisk Foundation Fellowship Programme then you should watch this webinar. It can tell you more about the learning process and some examples of why people have applied, and what they think about the learning process.

Welcoming Speech by Sys Zoffmann Glud

BioMedical Design Inauguration Day

September 2nd 2019

At Biomedical Design we want to empower talents in need led health innovation. We do that with the intention of supplying Danish healthcare, Danish research institutions and the Danish health tech industry with innovation leaders who come with a more holistic view of all what it takes. From identifying a problem to putting a solution in front of the user. It is a complex field to navigate in, and that is why we see there is a need for people who understand the whole process, who know how to reach out to the right people at the right moments of the process, to get the right help.

Meaningful Innovation that Matters
We want to have more innovation leaders in health care, because innovation matters to people. It really impacts peoples’ quality of life that we make good innovation, specially people who get sick or disabled. That’s why we should do it well. We should make meaningful innovation which matters to people.

A Push Back from Health Care Payers
However, we need to be careful about the approach we take, when we innovate. And right now I would say the value chain of innovating for health care is about to be broken. Historically it has been a very technology driven process where health care payers happily paid what it cost to take in all the innovation that companies developed. But now we see that there is a push back from the health care payers. They simply can’t afford all the good ideas and good solutions coming from the industry.

New Health Innovators are Needed
We need people who can approach the innovation of health care from a new perspective and yet make it beneficial for all parties in the value chain. We believe that the BioMedical Design Programme is one of the answers to this this dilemma. That’s why we have put together a ten months full time fellowship program in which we today enroll 16 very talented people who are skilled in each their domain, and during the next ten months will become skilled health innovators too.

The Boot Camp
The first month is a boot camp where we’ll give the fellows a basic introduction to the different clinical fields they’ll enter. To do observations and find problems. We’ll teach them health ethnography. Teach them small introductions to design thinking, something they’ll work with more deeply later. They’ll get to know each other and after the first month they will be put in teams of four with whom they’ll be together for the rest of the fellowship. They might not like their team mates all the time throughout these ten months. But that is also a part of the learning process. You have to learn to navigate and solve team issues.

Clinical Immersion
Then they’ll be immersed into different clinical fields. Two teams will have their base at Rigshospitalet in Surgical Gastroenterology and Nephrology and here in Aarhus the fellows will do their Clinical Immersion in the Ears-Nose-and-Throat department (Otolaryngology). In this process they will identify innumerable problems. Small problems, local problems but also some needs which have not been identified before. Not even by the staff working there. During four weeks they will be exploring widely, and then they will go through a process to narrow them down to 12 needs and validate these.

Big Impact Required
Validation means, that fellows have to go out and interview people in the clinic and ask: “Have I understood this clinical need?”, “Do you agree that it exists?”, and go out and see if they can retrieve the same situation in other hospital settings in Denmark and abroad. That is all sort of the qualitative identification of needs. Then they have to support in a more quantitative manner – digging down into literature and databases, looking for numbers which can support that there is a true problem and where there is a possibility to create a big impact even though fellows don’t know, what could be the solution yet.

Creative Skills
Innovation is not happening without getting good ideas. For some people it is easy to get good ideas and for others it is difficult – but this is a skill you can learn and that’s why we are working with it in the creative skills phase. Training the ability to come up with great ideas and to build on the ideas of others. To build on ideas that are out there in the world already, but improving them – and help solve issues that previous ideas haven’t solved.

In that process they will generate many ideas and again these ideas have to be validated if they are the right type of solution to the right need. It will be a challenging process because fellows will experience lots of insecurity. There are heaps of questions popping up. “Can it technically be done?”, “Has somebody already gotten this idea and patented it?”. “Damn, yes!” – and you have to go back to another solution. It’s a back and forth process, but the fellows are actually quite lucky, because while they are at this program they can work on multiple ideas at the same time. It’s a horse race – but they don’t need to go that far back to pick up another need and another solution – for sure they will end up with something.

Commercial Skills
Finally, we have the Commercial Skills phase. At this point fellows have two great ideas, and they quickly have to figure out which one can be developed further and have a sound business model built around it. They have to ask themselves, which idea is the most feasible for us with the competences we have in our own team and in our network to continue with? It will be a very intense process. Fellows will have to develop their commercial skills on the one side and parallel to that they will have to work on prototyping their solution so they stand with a fairly good prototype at the end of the program.

What Then?
Fellows will be there with an idea and they know quite a bit about the marked. We will let it up to some of all the other Danish institutions like funds and investors we have, to bring the fellows further on with their projects. This counts for those fellows who want to continue with their projects. Because it’s not the sole goal of this program to create start-ups and start-up teams. It’s our hope that many will – but the purpose is also to get the competences they have achieved out in the broader innovation ecosystem in Denmark because there are so many angles from which you can do good innovation.