Medical accelerator can strengthen Federal Way economy

Several surveyed employees in Federal Way's health care industry report they have ideas for new and patentable medical devices.

The company enterpriseSeattle has completed the first phase of a feasibility study measuring the attractiveness of a health care industry accelerator — also known as a medical device commercialization and innovation incubator — in Federal Way.

Data indicates a medical accelerator could prosper in Federal Way. City staff is now recommending moving forward with the second phase of the analysis.

"We all read on a fairly consistent basis about how difficult the economy is," said Jeff Marcell, enterpriseSeattle executive vice president. "At the end of the day, we're going to have to grow our way into prosperity. This is a true opportunity and a mechanism to grow our way into prosperity and create jobs."

Scoping the interest

In July, the Federal Way City Council authorized the use of $75,000 to complete phase one. Determining the demand for medical device innovation and the willingness of Federal Way's health care workforce to partake in an accelerator were its goals. Competition among services offering patenting assistance and the overall feasibility of an accelerator were also examined.

Results were favorable. Nurses and physicians at St. Francis Hospital participated in a survey. Of the 1,025 employees, 646 clinical staff members were engaged in the questionnaire and 131 returned the material. Up to 64 percent of those reported they had ideas for new medical devices, which they felt could be patented. Of those, up to 27 percent of participants showed an interest in taking part in a medical accelerator as a way to bring their ideas to the forefront of their industry.

"Our interest is primarily with innovation that occurs between doctors and patients," said Bruce Jackson, enterpriseSeattle business development manager. "We're not talking about a lab here."

Creating jobs

The accelerator is seen as a means to help grow the city's economy and workforce. It would encourage and support, through a suite of services offered to Federal Way's medical workforce, the fostering of ideas and patenting of medical devices.

"This is economic development with capital letters," Jackson said.

The patenting would help create new businesses in the health care field, which currently employs 17 percent of Federal Way's workforce. In turn, those innovations would spur the creation of other businesses designed to meet the needs of the inventors, Jackson said.

"The more that you use it, the more opportunity we have for business to succeed and come to Federal Way," city council member Jack Dovey said.

Moving forward

On Feb. 2, the city council will decide whether to amend a resolution, which will allow it to reallocate up to $250,000 from the City Center Redevelopment Fund to the second phase of the feasibility study. If the council approves the re-appropriation, phase two will begin immediately.

This includes the development of an implementation plan. The phase will include the development of several small plans in the following categories: Operations, information technology, media and marketing, market research, legal, financing, investment and partnership, strategic planning, site selection and business.

The second phase of the study will last approximately six months. Options for financing and governing an accelerator will be discussed. Costs could exceed $250,000. If this applies, additional funding will be sought.

"My hope, as we go through phase two, is we get the project to get funding and we bring in equity partners," Dovey said.

Following phase two, if approved, the council will have the choice of whether it wishes to proceed in creating the medical accelerator.

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