Medical Plastic Data Service Magazine



Our 29th Year of Publication
Page  1 of 6


Cover Story

Bridging the Technological Valley of Death – “Chitra’s TechnoProve”

former Head, Biomedical Technology Wing, SCTIMST Trivandrum

Technological Valley of Death

Imagine how the world would look today, if the greatest technological inventions in history such as the aeroplane, automobile, TV or the Internet had been left sitting in research labs and not seeing the light of manufacturing?

Many potentially breakthrough ideas failed in the so-called “Technological Valley of Death” due to a gap that exists between academic research and industrial commercialization. This is a great missed opportunity for economic and social progress; more so in India today as we struggle to translate laboratory research into societal value.

The journey of new technology from research to commercialization goes through a number of stages (aka LEVELS) of design, development and scale - up. These TECHNOLOGY READINESS LEVELS (TRLs) were defined at NASA between the 1970s and the 1990s to assess the maturity of a technology or research to enable better and more objective management of projects.

NASA’s TRLs :-

  1. Basic principles observed

  2. Technology concept formulated

  3. Experimental proof of concept

  4. Technology validated in a lab

  5. Technology validated in a relevant environment

  6. Technology demonstrated in a relevant environment

  7. System prototype demonstrated in an operational environment

  8. System complete and qualified

  9. System deployed in an operational environment

Large corporations are able to work at all levels of this scale; but small and medium sized companies cannot afford the high investments and different specialized competencies this approach requires. Hence, smaller companies have to rely on research conducted elsewhere; and the natural resources are Universities, Institutional Academia, public & private research laboratories (under CSIR and others).

“At what TRL does academia transfer technology to industry?”

Academia tends to focus on TRLs 1–4, where new ideas are explored, research conducted and new solutions invented. Industry needs to generate income or profit from investments made and hence prefer to work in TRLs 7–9; where innovation gets commercialised into manufacturable / saleable products and services.

Therefore, TRLs 4–7 represent a gap between academic research and industrial commercialization. This gap, generally referred to as the “Technological Valley of Death” emphasises the fact that many new novel research work reach TRLs 4–5 and die there.

In India, Transfer of technology directly from the laboratory to a production plant results in numerous problems. One limiting factor is the low strength of R & D personnel in industry and their inexperience in scaling-up laboratory level knowledge and practice to a manufacturable know-how. Problems multiply in medical devices due to mandatory needs for implementing Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP).

We are well aware of this gap and that few Academic R&D outputs have made it successfully into the market. For “Atmanirbhar Bharat” to succeed and make an impact on our economy, this “VALLEY OF DEATH must be successfully bridged” on a much larger scale across our vast country in the current high-tech scenario.

Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute for Medical Sciences & Technology, Trivandrum has been an exception. Between 1987 to 2000, the Institute successfully developed over 24 high-risk medical devices in their laboratories and 16 of them were successfully commercialised with transfer of know-how to industry.

So what did Chitra do, that was different? How did it achieve this significant success in the very challenging area of Medical implants and high risk devices ?


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