Entrepreneurs in Residence (EIR) in a hospital-based startup incubator could theoretically catalyze the transformation of clinician-scientists’ raw ideas and insights into viable commercial products and services.  To test this theoretical value, I would like to propose some concrete roles and responsibilities for a hospital-based EIR to serve as guidance for healthcare centers interested in creating such a position.
The roles of an EIR reflect the life-cycle of the creation of a company. First an EIR can help vet company ideas by performing an ecosystem assessment of a healthcare institution's innovators and their ideas. Quality Improvement (QI) projects are a great place to start because these initiatives seek to solve local problems through iterative testing. An EIR can help clinician-innovators explore whether those QI interventions can solve problems outside of the hospital as well as inside.
Once the innovation efforts at a healthcare center have been identified, the EIR can help identify a handful of projects to explore for potential incubation. Startup incubation is a high-contact interpersonal endeavor, so ensuring that the clinician-innovator is amenable to working with an EIR is important and should be a mutually agreed upon decision. Even though working with an EIR is like getting free guidance on how to avoid wasting years of research and millions of dollars to innefficiently discover that value does not exist, many clinician-scientists can be territorial about their work or perceive profit-generation as taboo.  Provided that the clinician is willing to work with an EIR, their relationship would be dynamic and diverse depending on the level of entrepreneurial experience of the clinician-innovator and their time availability. Ideally, the EIR serves as an advisor and the clinician-innovator would be spearheading the effort of value discovery for their own ideas. But, given the time constraints on clinicians to practice, conduct research, and teach, there may be situations where it is appropriate for an EIR to be more involved in the operations of a startup.
In addition to advising, the EIR should be responsible for building innovation capacity by teaching clinician-innovators about the value discovery process. Most entrepreneurial ideas will result in invalidation of the original hypothesis. But those invalidations should not be perceived as failed attempts to start a company. Rather, each iteration of testing an idea for market viability should involve a learning process whereby the EIR teaches the clinician-innovator the foundational principles of lean methodology, customer development, agile product development, innovation accounting, and design thinking. The learning may be experiential as well as didactic. Formal “Innovation Grand Rounds” can be set up much like the Innovation Accelerator Program led by @NaomiFried at Boston Children’s Hospital is doing with their monthly innovation forums. The benefit to the clinician-innovator and the their healthcare institution is that overtime there will be less reliance on EIRs and more internal capacity for social and commercial value discovery and creation leading to more revenue for the hospital and better service to patients.
Finally, a particularly unique role for a hospital-based EIR rather than a VC-based EIR is the responsibility of disseminating learning in order to advance knowledge in the academic community. That dissemination can be through informal means such as a blog, but it should also include peer-reviewed publication of best-practices and findings from product development cycles. Sharing successes and failures with the general innovation community can help to avoid recreation of the broken wheel and an EIR bilingual in clinical and entrepreneurial language can effectively relay entrepreneurial learning through an academic lens.
If you envision other roles for an EIR or have questions or comments, please let me know below.
1. Ostrovsky A. Blog. Entrepreneur in Residence...at a Hospital.
2. "Culture Risk Section": Ostrovsky A. Blog. Risk Faced by a Hospital-based Startup Incubator.
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